What It Feels Like to Be Strangled to Death

What does being strangled to death feel like, really? Though there understandably aren't any personal accounts, doctors, scientists, and survivors of strangulation - are able to detail the process the body goes through and give some hints as to what it might feel like. Spoiler alert: it does not feel good. More than the basic panic the body goes through during strangulation, there are phases of the shockingly long process that can only be described as excruciating.

So what's going on from a scientific perspective and what happens to the body when it's strangled to death? This list breaks down the medical talk and gets into the creepy, scary details of fatal strangulation and asphyxiation.


  • Your Throat Can Literally Rip, Which Could Lead to a Stroke

    There are many ways a person can die during strangulation, some just take a bit longer. Remember those carotid arteries? Blocking the arteries or screwing with their nerve bunches aren't the only two ways messing with those guys can kill you. Death by dissection is also a really gross option.

    Here's what happens: during strangulation, arteries can tear. That tear makes it possible for blood to enter the arterial wall. The layers of the wall then continue splitting, which can lead to a fatal stroke.

  • It's a Sh*t Show

    When the body lets go, it really lets go. After falling into unconsciousness, the strangulation victim is likely to lose complete control over their bodily functions. This can result in a variety of unfortunate reactions including, but not limited to, defecation and urination. This is a known fact among criminal executioners. In one man's recounting of his final days on death row, he describes being put in a diaper to prevent the need for any clean up.

  • You Can't Make Noise and If You Survive, You'll Be Hoarse

    In movies, when someone's been strangled, they usually speak with a really hoarse voice. This is because the larynx, located in the neck, connects the pharynx to the trachea and is responsible for your voice's pitch and tonality. It is also massively affected during strangulation because, aside from the way we sound, it's also how we breathe.

    At best, the victim of strangulation ends up with a scratchy voice and sore throat. At worst, they end up dying of asphyxiation, and, generally, no one can hear them.

  • Your Head Feels Like It's Exploding

    In some strangulation cases, the arteries themselves are obstructed, cutting off oxygen to the brain. This attack is sometimes called a "brain attack" because of the similarities to a heart attack, but make no mistake, it's different and it's painful. Imagine putting your fist around the middle of a blown up balloon. Then imagine trying to pump more air into it. That pressure and eventual explosion is similar to the situation your brain is in. Luckily (sort of?) the sudden decrease in oxygenated blood to the brain will kill you pretty quickly.