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Can Emotional Stress Cause Speech Problems?

Millions of Americans are affected by high-stress levels and anxiety disorders each year. Chronic stress and anxiety can result in many symptoms, such as fatigue, insomnia, and frequent headaches. Unfortunately, only a small number of those affected will receive proper support and treatment to improve their mental health and eliminate their symptoms. 

Although awareness and access to mental health resources have increased, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health challenges, and many people, as a result, suffer in silence and are unwilling to ask for help. This can be even more heightened when these challenges affect the ability to communicate. 

Significant levels of stress and anxiety can have many negative effects, including affecting our ability to use speech and language to express our thoughts, feelings, needs, and ideas. Speech therapy can help alleviate these symptoms, strengthen communication skills, and increase confidence. If you think you might benefit from speech therapy through Great Speech, get started today by scheduling your free introductory call

Can Stress and Anxiety Cause Slurred Speech?

When the body experiences frequent bouts of stress or anxiety, some physical reactions can affect the fluency and clarity of speech. While this is not exactly the same as slurred speech caused by other factors, it can be quite similar. 

Typically, when we experience stress, we have a tendency to clench the jaw and teeth. When this is combined with the other symptoms of stress, such as a dry mouth, a mind that is racing, or the experience of a panic attack, speech can become more complex and less clear. 

Stress and anxiety can affect the whole body, and while it may not always be the direct cause of speech disruptions, it can reveal speech problems that already exist. 

What are the Signs of Speech Anxiety?

It is common for many individuals to experience some degree of speech anxiety when they are required to speak publicly, usually at work, in a social situation, or in the classroom. Public speaking is one of the most common fears among children and grown-ups. The symptoms of speech anxiety can range from simply feeling slightly nervous to experiencing a level of fear that is almost incapacitating. Some of the most common signs of speech anxiety include:

  • Shaking Hands 
  • Sweating
  • Butterflies in the Stomach
  • Racing or Rapid Heartbeat 
  • Dry Mouth
  • Squeaky, Shaky, or Broken Speaking Voice 

How Do Anxiety and Stress Affect the Voice and Speech Patterns?

Experiencing severe stress and/or anxiety can be incredibly overwhelming, so it’s not surprising that it can affect our ability to communicate. 

Speech and language can be affected in the following ways: 

Shaky Voice: This symptom is perhaps the most common or well-known symptom relating to speech. In times of extreme stress and anxiety, it is common for the whole body to shake, including the mouth, jaw, and voice box. This can make the voice sound as though it is vibrating or crackling during speech.

Quiet Voice: Those who experience anxiety – especially social anxiety – commonly find that they have difficulty speaking up when in public. This kind of vocal quietness is quite common, and it can make your voice and the manner in which you speak sound different to others. While this may simply be related to volume, it can also be the result of looking at our feet while we speak.  

Dry Mouth or Throat: Dry mouth or throat is a common symptom of stress and anxiety, and some people may feel like they are losing their voice. One potential reason for this is that anxious feelings can exacerbate acid reflux symptoms, and individuals with acid reflux have a tendency to wake frequently with a sore throat and a loss of voice. Anxiety also increases nervous system activity by activating the flight or fight response; this can cause the mouth to produce less saliva. 

Stuttering: Feelings of stress and anxiety can disrupt the flow of speech and cause stuttering. While stuttering itself is a different disorder, it can be made worse by anxiety or can appear in those who don’t usually stutter. Anxiety can also cause a tendency to overthink word choice and sentences, which in turn can make it easy to stumble over our words or stutter a fair amount. 

These are only a handful of the challenges that anxiety can cause with speech and voice. Everyone experiences anxiety differently, and the body can present symptoms in a wide variety of ways. If you are struggling with your communication due to stress and anxiety, speech therapy can help. Get started by scheduling your free introductory call today! 

Can Stress Cause You to Say the Wrong Words?

While we’ve explored how stress and anxiety can affect our ability to produce clear and fluent speech, it is also important to discuss how it can affect our cognition, as not all symptoms of anxiety are physical. Anxiety and stress can affect our ability to think and put our thoughts and feelings into the right words. It is common for people with anxiety to forget certain words, replace words with other incorrect ones, lose their train of thought, and more. 

How Can Speech Therapy Help?

By now, we’ve answered the question, “Can stress mess with your speech?” and can now look at possible solutions. If you are struggling with your mental health, it is important to speak to your primary medical caregiver about the correct course of action; after all, speech therapy may not be the full answer. They may suggest other therapies that are better suited to your situation, medications, or a combination of both. 

Experienced speech and language pathologists can help improve the clarity of your speech, as well as work on your cognition and confidence. While it is most important to take care of your mental health, improving your speech and language skills can give you the boost you need to succeed professionally and socially for years to come.

Don’t wait to get started; schedule your free introductory call today!