Anxiety And Burning, Tingling, Numbness, Pins and Needles In The Mouth

Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated March 30, 2022

burning, tingling, numbness, pins and needles symptoms in the mouth

Burning, tingling, numbness, pins and needles, and other odd sensations in the mouth are common anxiety disorder symptom, including anxiety and panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, and others.

This article explains the relationship between anxiety and burning, tingling, numbness, pins and needles in the mouth symptoms.

Burning In The Mouth Common Symptom Descriptions

  • It feels like your mouth is burning like you just drank something hot.
  • It feels like your mouth is tingling, numb, or has a “pins and needles” feeling inside.
  • It can also feel like your mouth has an unusual feeling inside, like it was scalded or burnt, yet it wasn’t by anything you put in your mouth.
  • It can also feel like the inside of our mouth was anesthetized; a numb mouth feeling.
  • You can also have many other odd sensations in the mouth.

This burning, tingling, numbness, or pins and needles feeling can affect your mouth, lips, gums, palate, throat, tongue, or all of them at once.

This symptom can be a burning feeling and then change to a numbness and tingling feeling. It can also change back and forth between the various symptoms or can all occur simultaneously.

This symptom can have several different patterns. For example, it can occur every day with mild symptoms upon waking but becoming more severe throughout the day. Or symptoms can start immediately upon waking up and persist throughout the day. Or symptoms can persist with no letup or fluctuation regardless of the time of day. Or they can occur erratically or subside for many days then return.

Overall, burning, tingling, numbness, and pins and needles in the mouth symptoms can:

  • Occur occasionally, frequently, or persistently.
  • Precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety symptoms or occur by itself.
  • Precede, accompany, or follow a period of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and stress, or occur "out of the blue" and for no reason.
  • Range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe.
  • Come in waves where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.
  • Change from day to day, moment to moment, or remain as a constant background during your struggle with anxiety disorder.

All the above combinations and variations are common.

This symptom can seem more noticeable when undistracted, resting, trying to sleep, or when waking up.

To see if anxiety might be playing a role in your symptoms, rate your level of anxiety using our free one-minute instant results Anxiety Test, Anxiety Disorder Test, or Hyperstimulation Test.

The higher the rating, the more likely anxiety could be contributing to or causing your anxiety symptoms, including feeling like impending doom symptoms.

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Causes

Medical Advisory

Talk to your doctor about all new, changing, persistent, and returning symptoms as some medical conditions and medications can cause anxiety-like symptoms.

Additional Medical Advisory Information.

When burning in the mouth symptoms are solely caused by anxiety and stress, it’s commonly referred to as Burning Mouth Syndrome.[1][2] Here are some of the most common ways anxiety and stress can cause this symptom:

1. The stress response

Anxious behavior activates the stress response, causing many body-wide changes that give the body an emergency “boost” of energy and resources when we believe we could be in danger.

This survival reaction is often referred to as the fight or flight response, the emergency response, the fight, flight, or freeze response (some people freeze when they are afraid, like a “deer caught in headlights”), or the fight, flight, freeze, or faint response (since some people faint when they are afraid).[3][4]

Visit our “Stress Response” article for more information about its many changes.

Some of the stress response changes include:

  • Stimulates the nervous system.
  • Heightens most of our senses, including taste.
  • Shunts blood to parts of the body more vital to survival, such as the brain, arms, legs, and vital organs, and away from parts less vital for survival, such as the stomach, digestive system, and skin.
  • Suppresses digestion, consequently reducing salivation.

This combination of changes can affect how the mouth feels, including causing the sensations associated with this symptom.

Many anxious people experience inside the mouth symptoms and feelings due to an active stress response.

As long as the stress response is active, it can create any of the symptoms mentioned inside the mouth.

2. Hyperstimulation

When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can quickly recover from the many stress response changes.

However, when stress responses occur too frequently, such as from overly apprehensive behavior, the body can’t recover.

Incomplete recovery can leave the body in semi-stress response readiness, which we call “stress-response hyperstimulation” since stress hormones are stimulants.

Hyperstimulation is also often referred to as “hyperarousal,” “HPA axis dysfunction,” or “nervous system dysregulation.”[5][6]

Hyperstimulation can cause changes of an active stress response even though a stress response hasn’t been activated.

Visit our “Hyperstimulation” article for more information about how hyperstimulation can affect the body and how we feel.

Hyperstimulation can cause this symptom in many ways. Here are a few examples:

nervous system excitation dysregulationThe body’s nervous system, which includes the brain, is a two-way communication network that connects the brain to virtually every part of the body.[7]

The nervous system is responsible for receiving sensory information from the body’s sense organs and sending it to the brain for interpretation. Then, sending back information from the brain to nervous system-controlled parts of the body.

The nervous system accomplishes this communication with specialized cells called “neurons” (nerve cells) that communicate using an electrochemical process - the combination of electricity and chemistry.

Neurons transmit information to the brain by receiving then passing nerve impulse information (electrical impulses) from neuron to neuron along a long chain of neurons (the nervous system network) until it reaches the brain, where it is interpreted.

For example, when a nerve impulse is received from one of our senses, as when we touch something hot, the nerve endings in the dermis layer of the skin relay this nerve impulse information from neuron to neuron through the nervous system network to the brain.

neuron anatomyBecause the nervous system is a ‘two-way’ communication network, once the brain has interpreted this information – for example, senses that the thing we are touching is hot, it then sends nerve impulse information back through the nervous system network to a specific muscle group so that the muscles react, and in this case, remove the affected skin from the source of the heat, protecting it from harm. This communication and reaction occur quickly.

This system of communication works efficiently and effectively when the body and nervous system are healthy. However, problems can occur when the nervous system and sense organs become hyperstimulated.[6][8][9]

For example, because of their electrochemical properties, neurons are particularly sensitive to stimulation. When they become hyperstimulated, they can act erratically, causing the misreporting of nerve impulse signaling to the brain. These anomalies can create many unusual sensory-based sensations and symptoms, including symptoms inside the mouth.

Because the brain is primarily made up of neurons, hyperstimulation can also affect brain function, such as increasing the electrical activity in parts of the brain as well as changing how the brain communicates within itself – the rationalization areas of the brain (the cortex and others) are suppressed, and the fear center of the brain (the amygdala and others) becomes more active.

When you combine sensory organ hyperstimulation with nervous system and brain hyperstimulation, all sorts of nervous system, sensory organ, and neuron-related sensations and symptoms can occur, including those associated with the nerve endings in the mouth and on the tongue.

As long as the body and nervous system are slightly hyperstimulated, they can exhibit many odd sensations and symptoms, including those inside the mouth.

Chronic stress (hyperstimulation) can also lead to gingivitis, which can also cause odd sensations inside the mouth.

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3. Other Factors

Other factors can create stress and cause anxiety-like symptoms, as well as aggravate existing anxiety symptoms, including:

Select the relevant link for more information.

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Treatment

When other factors cause or aggravate this anxiety symptom, addressing the specific cause can reduce and eliminate this symptom.

When an active stress response causes this symptom, ending the active stress response will cause this acute anxiety symptom to subside.

Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and needn’t be a cause for concern.

When hyperstimulation (chronic stress) causes burning, tingling, numbness, pins and needles, and other odd sensations inside the mouth, eliminating hyperstimulation will end these symptoms.

You can eliminate hyperstimulation by:

  • Reducing stress.
  • Containing anxious behavior (since anxiety creates stress).
  • Regular deep relaxation.
  • Avoiding stimulants.
  • Regular light to moderate exercise.
  • Getting regular good sleep.
  • Eating a healthy diet of whole and natural foods.
  • Passively accepting your symptoms until they subside.
  • Being patient as your body recovers.

Visit our “60 Natural Ways To Reduce Stress” article for more ways to reduce stress.

As the body recovers from hyperstimulation, it stops sending symptoms, including this one.

Symptoms of chronic stress subside as the body regains its normal, non-hyperstimulated health.

However, eliminating hyperstimulation can take much longer than most people think, causing symptoms to linger longer than expected.

As long as the body is even slightly hyperstimulated, it can present symptoms of any type, number, intensity, duration, frequency, and at any time, including symptoms inside the mouth.

Even so, since this symptom is a common symptom of stress, including anxiety-caused stress, it's harmless and needn't be a cause for concern. It will subside when unhealthy stress has been eliminated and the body has had sufficient time to recover. Therefore, there is no reason to worry about it.

Anxiety symptoms often linger because:

  • The body is still being stressed (from stressful circumstances or anxious behavior).
  • Your stress hasn't diminished enough or for long enough.
  • Your body hasn't completed its recovery work.

Addressing the reason for lingering symptoms will allow the body to recover.

Most often, lingering anxiety symptoms ONLY remain because of the above reasons. They AREN'T a sign of a medical problem. This is especially true if you have had your symptoms evaluated by your doctor, and they have been solely attributed to anxiety or stress.

Chronic anxiety symptoms subside when hyperstimulation is eliminated. As the body recovers and stabilizes, all chronic anxiety symptoms will slowly diminish and eventually disappear.

Since worrying and becoming upset about anxiety symptoms stress the body, these behaviors can interfere with recovery.

Passively accepting your symptoms – allowing them to persist without reacting to, resisting, worrying about, or fighting them – while doing your recovery work will cause their cessation in time.

Acceptance, practice, and patience are key to recovery.

Since the body can take a long time to recover from hyperstimulation, it's best to faithfully work at your recovery despite the lack of apparent progress.

However, if you persevere with your recovery work, you will succeed.

You also have to do your recovery work FIRST before your body can recover. The cumulative effects of your recovery work will produce results down the road. And the body's stimulation has to diminish before symptoms can subside.

  • Reducing stress.
  • Increasing rest.
  • Faithfully practicing your recovery strategies.
  • Passively accepting your symptoms.
  • Containing anxious behavior.
  • Being patient.

These will bring results in time.

Remember: Focusing on your sensations and symptoms makes them more pronounced. If you'd like to lessen their impact, learn to focus your attention elsewhere through distraction, enjoying your hobbies, undertaking pleasing and calming activities, regular deep relaxation, and by recalling pleasant memories or experiences.

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Therapy

Unidentified and unaddressed underlying factors cause issues with anxiety. As such, they are the primary reason why anxiety symptoms persist.[10][11][12]

Addressing your underlying factors (Level Two recovery) is most important if you want lasting success.

Addressing Level Two recovery can help you:

  • Contain anxious behavior.
  • Become unafraid of anxiety symptoms and the strong feelings of anxiety.
  • End anxiety symptoms.
  • Successfully address the underlying factors that so often cause issues with anxiety.
  • End what can feel like out-of-control worry.

All our recommended anxiety therapists have had anxiety disorder and overcame it. Their personal experience with anxiety disorder and their Master's Degree and above professional training gives them insight other therapists don't have.

If you want to achieve lasting success over anxiety disorder, any one of our recommended therapists would be a good choice.

Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to treat anxiety disorder.

Typically, working with an experienced therapist is the only way to overcome stubborn anxiety.

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Prevalence

In an online poll we conducted, 47 percent of respondents said they had burning, tingling, numbness, pins and needles, and other in the mouth anxiety symptoms.

NOTE: Other common causes of this symptom include allergies or allergic reactions; stomach irritation; drinking too many acidic drinks; or over brushing your teeth.

Some people find that eating less spicy foods, avoiding acidic foods, and drinking more fluids can help lessen this symptom in the short-term.

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The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed – which we call the underlying factors of anxiety – a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources

Return to our anxiety disorders signs and symptoms page.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including burning, tingling, numbness, pins and needles, and other odd sensations in the mouth anxiety symptoms.

References

1. Harvard Health Publishing. “Burning Mouth Syndrome.” Harvard Health, 2008.

2. “Burning Mouth Syndrome.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 9 Aug. 2017.

3. Berczi, Istvan. “Walter Cannon's ‘Fight or Flight Response’ - ‘Acute Stress Response.’” Walter Cannon's "Fight or Flight Response"  - "Acute Stress Response", 2017.

4. Godoy, Livea, et al. "A Comprehensive Overview on Stress Neurobiology: Basic Concepts and Clinical Implications." Frontiers In Behavioral Neuroscience, 3, July 2018.

5. Elbers, Jorina, et al. "Wired for Threat: Clinical Features of Nervous System Dysregulation in 80 Children." Pediatric Neurology, Dec 2018.

6. Teixeira, Renata Roland, et al. “Chronic Stress Induces a Hyporeactivity of the Autonomic Nervous System in Response to Acute Mental Stressor and Impairs Cognitive Performance in Business Executives.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015.

7. Bear,Connors, Paradiso (2016). “Neuroscience: Exploring the brain - Fourth Edition.” New York, NY: Wolters Kluwer

8. Yaribeygi, Habib, et al. “The Impact of Stress on Body Function: A Review.” EXCLI Journal, Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors, 2017.

9. McEwen, Bruce S. “Neurobiological and Systemic Effects of Chronic Stress.” Chronic Stress (Thousand Oaks). U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2017.

10. Hofmann, Stefan G., et al. “The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-Analyses.” Cognitive Therapy and Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Oct. 2012.

11. Leichsenring, Falk. “Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy the Gold Standard for Psychotherapy?” JAMA, American Medical Association, 10 Oct. 2017.

12. DISCLAIMER: Because each body is somewhat chemically unique, and because each person will have a unique mix of symptoms and underlying factors, recovery results may vary. Variances can occur for many reasons, including due to the severity of the condition, the ability of the person to apply the recovery concepts, and the commitment to making behavioral change.