Picture this: you’re in an important meeting when suddenly as you’re speaking your speech goes from normal to slurred in a matter of moments. Or maybe you’re planning something with a friend only to find your words running together as you discuss the date and time. This can be a very upsetting, confusing, stressful, and frustrating experience. Understanding what caused your speech changes is important, and you may wonder if stress causes slurred speech.
It is not widely known that stress and anxiety can cause speech problems. The brain and body react to stress in a variety of different ways, including increased tension in the muscles, scattered thoughts, and difficulty focusing on the task at hand, which in this case, is speaking.
Speech therapy can be very helpful in supporting adults who may be struggling to communicate due to stress and anxiety. Get started with speech therapy through Great Speech by scheduling your free introductory call today!
How Does Stress & Anxiety Affect Speech?
It is very common for symptoms of anxiety to make the individual feel like there is something wrong with their brain. The brain is potentially the most important element of the human body, and those who struggle with anxiety often worry that their brain may fail, or that they have a serious medical condition such as a brain tumor or multiple sclerosis. This worry, on top of the anxiety they are experiencing, can increase feelings of stress, worry and anxiety.
Stress and anxiety can affect speech in the following ways:
Increased Muscle Tension – Increased muscle tension due to stress and anxiety can affect the fluidity and clarity of speech.
Racing Thoughts – It is common for individuals with anxiety to feel like they can’t keep up with their thoughts, or that their thoughts are racing. This can make speaking clearly and effectively expressing thoughts and ideas difficult.
Social Anxiety – Social anxiety can make speaking in front of others very difficult. An individual with social anxiety may struggle to communicate when in certain situations which can have significant effects on the individual’s ability to succeed in social, professional, and academic situations.
Panic Attacks – Panic attacks can come on very suddenly and can make it very difficult or impossible for the individual to communicate. Panic attacks often cause shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, and difficulty thinking clearly, which can all have significant effects on speech.
Dry Mouth – Stress and anxiety can cause the individual to experience frequent instances of dry mouth. A dry mouth can make speaking smoothly and fluidly difficult.
Shaky Voice – Sometimes anxiety and stress can cause the voice to waver or sounds shaky.
Difficulty Concentrating – Stress and anxiety can also make concentrating difficult. When an individual is experiencing significant stress or anxiety, they tend to focus on those feelings and what might be causing them. This can make focusing on the task at hand, speaking, for example, deeply challenging.
Slurred Speech – Slurred speech (also referred to as dysarthria) is a common symptom of anxiety which can be quite frightening when it occurs. While it can be unnerving to experience, especially on top of feelings of anxiousness and worry, it usually is not an indication of the health of the brain.
If you are struggling with communication problems related to stress and anxiety, speech therapy can be highly beneficial. Get started with speech therapy by scheduling your free introductory call today!
What Causes Slurred Speech due to Stress?
Slurred speech can be caused by stress and anxiety due to the following effects:
Mouth Tension: As mentioned above, anxiety can result in significant muscle tension. This includes the muscles within the mouth, which can make it more difficult to clearly get the words out.
Hyperawareness: When anxiety is present, and the mind may be racing, some individuals become hyper-aware and may overthink the processes that would normally occur unconsciously. Such processes include walking, breathing, and of course, speaking. When an individual becomes too focused on getting the words out, speech can become slurred.
Anxiety Medications: Many people who live with anxiety take medications to help them manage their symptoms and navigate their everyday life. Some of these medications act as muscle relaxants, which can make the mouth and facial muscles less reactive, resulting in slurred speech.
How Can Speech Issues Due to Anxiety Be Reduced?
There are a few things that can help to reduce speech issues that are related to stress and anxiety.
Prepare: If you are aware that you’ll be facing an important event or conversation, take some time to visualize yourself succeeding in that situation. Prepare your talking points ahead of time so you won’t add additional stress to yourself.
Pacing: Work on speaking slowly and carefully, paying special attention to articulation. When you feel rushed, or your speech is rushed, speech can become slurred as a result. Allow your brain, and the required muscles, adequate time to efficiently produce speech.
Deep breathing: Anxiety and worry can sometimes cause individuals to hold their breath. Practice taking some deep breaths before you encounter a potentially stressful situation.
Slurred speech related to anxiety is usually a temporary condition and can last up to several hours, though it may also only last a matter of minutes. Anxiety impacts speech differently in each individual. In some cases, the slurring may last longer and can indicate an underlying health condition that should be addressed.
How Can Speech Therapy Help with Speech Problems Related to Stress & Anxiety?
Our highly qualified and experienced speech and language pathologists work with individuals who are experiencing speech problems related to anxiety by improving and strengthening communication skills. This alone can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety in professional or social situations. Speech and language pathologists employ a variety of methods, exercises, and approaches to identify and treat communication problems related to anxiety and work collaboratively with the individual to achieve appropriate goals. Because stress and anxiety can affect speech in a wide variety of ways, every treatment plan varies between individuals. Contact us today for your free introductory call and get connected with a registered speech pathologist to start on your path to increased confidence and better communication.