When I was about
15, I decided to take one of my father's daily vitamin pills...it looked like a horse pill, but as I had no problems before swallowing pills, I decided to take it. It felt like it got caught in my throat and I ended up retching for several minutes. Though it went down, it left a lasting, hurting impression on my throat.
After that, I couldn't take pills, no matter the size. I had to crush them up and put them in juice. Even now, 18 years later, I still sometimes try to swallow pills and get scared. I either need to, take them out of my mouth and try again, or take in more water.
I think this is the time when my fear of choking in public happened. I remember many times, while eating in a restaurant, during my teens, that no matter how small I chewed my food, the food wouldn't go down. I could feel the gagging/choking sensation. Many times I needed to take home my entire meal. I'm sure people thought I was anorexic. At home, I didn't have the problem.
As crazy as it seems, I think I was afraid of choking in public and having to call attention to myself to resolve the life threatening issue.
Occasionally, I still feel this way, while eating out. I just remind myself to chew slowly and completely and relax. And if all else fails, enjoy the company and the leftovers later.