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Burning, pins and needles in your tongue anxiety symptom

Anxiety symptom burning tongue description:

It feels like the tip, parts of, or all of your tongue is burning, tingling, numb, experiencing pins and needles, and/or other odd sensations and feelings.

Other descriptions for this symptom include, burning tongue syndrome anxiety, burning mouth and tongue, pins and needles in your tongue, dry burning tongue, and anxiety burning mouth and tongue.

This sensation may affect your tongue, lips, gums, palate, throat, teeth, or your entire mouth.

This sensation can have several different patterns. For example, it may occur every day, with little pain upon waking up but becoming more severe throughout the day. The burning may start immediately upon waking up and persist throughout the day. Or, the burning may come and go erratically, and you may even have days with no burning sensations.

Even though you have this sensation, there is no visual cause. This sensation doesn’t cause any physical change or harm to your tongue or mouth.

The sensation may occur as a response to feeling anxious or stressed, or may occur for no apparent reason.

This sensation can be mildly noticeable, moderately bothersome, or greatly problematic. It can occur rarely, frequently, or persistently, and may change from day to day and even moment to moment.

All combinations and variations of the above are common.

Why does anxiety cause your tongue to feel like it’s burning?

The body’s sensory organs and the nervous system work together to provide the body with sensory information (taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing). The taste buds on the tongue, for example, work in conjunction with the taste buds in the mouth to provide us with information about how things taste. When the sensory organs and nervous system are healthy, our sense of taste is normal.  But things can change when the body experiences a stress response and/or becomes overly stressed. Here’s why.

Behaving in an apprehensive manner activates the stress response. The stress response secretes stress hormones into the bloodstream where they travel to targeted spots in the body to bring about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that enhance the body’s ability to deal with a threat - to either fight with or flee from it - which is the reason the stress response is often referred to as the fight or flight response.

A part of the stress response changes causes our senses to become heightened. The body does this so that we are hyperaware of danger in order to either fight with or flee from it. As our senses are heightened, we are more able to respond and more quickly. This works to our advantage when in real danger.

So, an active stress response can cause this symptom as part of the physiological changes the stress response brings about in response to the perception of danger.

Furthermore, if the body experiences too frequent stress responses and doesn’t have sufficient time to recover, it can become overly stressed. An overly stressed body can function abnormally, which can cause a wide range of odd and unusual sensory symptoms, such as this one.

Hyperventilation can also cause this symptom. Breathing too shallowly can cause the CO2 levels in the blood to change. This change can cause symptoms similar to stress, such as a burning and tingling tongue.

How to eliminate the burning tongue anxiety symptom

When this feeling is caused by apprehensive behavior and the accompanying stress response changes, calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response and its changes. As your body recovers from the active stress response, this sensation should subside and you should return to your normal self. 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 shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

When this sensation is caused by hyperventilation, changing your breathing pattern to a deeper, more relaxed pattern will eliminate hyperventilation and this sensation.

When this sensation is caused by an overly stressed body, reducing your stress and giving your body sufficient time to recover will eliminate stress-caused sensations and symptoms, including this one. Keep in mind, however, that it may take your body a long time to recover from the negative effects of stress. You might have to practice stress reduction and rest for some time before you see results.

Nevertheless, when the body has fully recovered, this feeling will completely subside. Therefore, this symptom needn’t be a cause for concern.

You can speed up the recovery process by reducing your stress, practicing relaxed breathing, increasing your rest and relaxation, and not worrying about this feeling. Sure, it can be unsettling and even bothersome. But again, when your body has recovered from the stress response and/or sustained stress, this symptom will completely disappear.

We explain this sensation in more detail in the Anxiety Symptoms section (Chapter 9) in the Recovery Support area of our website. Chapter 9 in the Recovery Support area is the most comprehensive anxiety symptoms section anywhere today. Click here for more information about our Recovery Support area.

If you’d like personal assistance with your recovery, you can learn more about our Personal Coaching option here.

You can return to our signs and symptoms of anxiety list here.

Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated November 2014.