Choking: A Crazy and Deadly Game
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Choking: A Crazy and Deadly Game

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Choking...A Crazy and Deadly Game

by Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC

Parents, there’s another "game" you should watch out for – the choking game. The object is to induce a short high by choking oneself. Unfortunately, this game is spreading among girls and boys all over America. There are even Youtube videos teaching kids how to do it. The problem is that there is no safe way to learn and, when treading that close to the line of death, many kids accidentally go over it.

More than 60 deaths have occurred due to the choking game since 2005 according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control). The web site (GASP Games Teens Shouldn't Play) reported 65 children died in 2007 alone. This number is probably understated because choking game deaths involve accidental strangulation with a rope or belt, which often looks like suicide.

This game is played in a variety of ways, but the goal is to deprive the brain of oxygen long enough to create a feeling of euphoria before passing out. Children may use their hands to squeeze the necks of friends or they may use computer cords, scarves, or ropes. In another version, kids bend down and try to induce hyperventilation by taking deep breaths followed by a “bear hug” from a friend.

This game is not the same thing as autoerotic asphyxiation (another risky behavior that tends to be practiced by older teens and adults), in which masturbation and asphyxia are combined to achieve a more powerful orgasm.

What parents should look for if they are concerned their children are playing this game:

1. Listen to your kids talk. Words such as “flat liner,” “black out,” “fainting game,” “dream game,” and “space cowboy” are a few.

2. Look to see if your child has blood shot eyes.

3. Listen to your child’s physical complaints. If he complains of a lot of headaches (and hasn't done so before), you should be wary.

4. See if your child has red marks or small, red dots on her neck.

5. Look at your child's room. Are there scarves tied on the furniture or lying on the floor? Are there leashes or dog collars lying on the floor? Is this unusual? When you ask your teen about it, what does she say?

The best way to prevent your child from being a statistic is to talk to your child. Bring up a discussion at dinner about this topic and talk to your child about it. “What causes it? How do you feel about it? Do you know anyone who does this?” Kids who participate in this game oftentimes feel unconnected to the family. They may suffer from depression, but parents see it as normal teen behavior. Talk to your kids, listen to them, and hug them. They are teens, but they need you more than ever before.

For more information go to:
Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at and more about Rapini at


Start Talking features succinct yet lively answers, sample conversations, and real life stories to help open the door to better mother/daughter communication. Rapini and Sherman have compiled more than 113 questions girls (and their moms) routinely ask – or should be asking – about health, sex, body image, and dating.