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Difficulty Speaking Anxiety Symptoms

Marilyn Folk BScN medical reviewer
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: April 3, 2019

Difficulty speaking anxiety symptoms description:

Common descriptions for the anxiety symptom difficulty speaking include:

The difficulty speaking anxiety symptoms can persistently affect one part of the mouth only (such as the tongue), can shift and affect another area or areas, and can affect all areas and over and over again.

The difficulty speaking anxiety symptoms can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you may have difficulty speaking once in a while and not that often, have difficulty speaking off and on, or have it all the time.

Difficulty speaking may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.

The difficulty speaking symptoms can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur ‘out of the blue’ and for no apparent reason.

Difficulty speaking can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.

The difficulty speaking anxiety symptoms can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

The difficulty speaking anxiety symptoms are also often referred to as ‘slurred speech.’

What causes the difficulty speaking anxiety symptoms?

Because there are many medical conditions that can cause anxiety-like sensations and symptoms, including mood swings, we recommend that all new, changing, persistent, and returning symptoms be discussed with your doctor. If your doctor concludes that your symptoms are caused solely from anxiety and/or stress, you can be assured that there isn’t another medical condition causing them. Generally, most doctors can easily differentiate between stress and anxiety caused sensations and symptoms from those caused by other medical conditions.

If you are uncertain about your doctor’s diagnosis, however, you may want to seek a second and even third opinion. But if all three opinions agree, you can feel confident that anxiety and/or stress is the cause of your symptoms and not some other medical or biological problem.

Behaving anxiously activates the stress response. The stress response immediately causes 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.

Part of the stress response changes include stimulating the nervous system and changing brain functioning. These changes help us when in danger but can also affect our ability to speak correctly.

When these responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly from the physiological, psychological, and emotional changes the response brings about. When these responses occur too frequently and/or dramatically, however, the body has a more difficult time recovering, which can result in the body remaining in a semi hyperstimulated state, since stress hormones are stimulants. A body that becomes stress-response hyperstimulated can exhibit similar sensations and symptoms to that of an active stress response. Having difficulty speaking is a common symptom of an active stress response, and especially, of stress-response hyperstimulation (when the body becomes overly stressed).

Since the difficulty speaking anxiety symptoms are merely symptoms of an active stress response and/or hyperstimulation, they needn’t be a cause for concern. They generally subside when the body has recovered from the active stress response and/or stress-response hyperstimulation.

While disconcerting, the difficulty speaking anxiety symptoms are harmless and fully disappear when the body returns to normal non-hyperstimulated health.

Many of those who struggle with anxiety worry that MS, ALS, a brain tumor, or other neurological condition may be the cause of their difficulty speaking. Checking on the Internet may cause more anxiety, since co-ordination problems are common symptoms of these medical conditions.

But, an active stress response and/or hyperstimulation are the most common causes of difficulty speaking. As we mentioned, it subsides when the body has recovered from an active stress response and/or hyperstimulation. Again, because it’s just a symptom of stress, it needn’t be a cause for concern. Many anxious and stressed people experience difficulty speaking when their stress elevates.

Anxious behaviors is another cause of difficulty speaking

Another aspect to consider is anxious behavior - the ways we think and act. If you are concerned what people think of you, fear making a mistake, fear looking embarrassed, or fear being rejected – common behaviors at the root of problematic anxiety, you may need to also address your anxiety issues, which we call the underlying factors of anxiety.

The best way to identify and address your specific underlying factors is to work with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor, such as our recommended therapists. Unless you are trained as a therapist, working through the underlying factors on your own generally isn’t very successful. Research has shown that the vast majority of people who try to deal with their anxiety issues on their own aren’t successful. This is why professional help is the best way to experience meaningful and lasting success.

How to get rid of the difficulty speaking anxiety symptoms?

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 symptom 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 difficulty speaking is caused by persistent stress, it may take a lot more time for the body to recover and to the point where this symptom is eliminated.

Nevertheless, when the body has fully recovered, stress-caused difficulty speaking should completely subside. Therefore, the difficulty speaking anxiety symptoms 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 your difficulty speaking. Sure, it can be bothersome. But again, when your body has recovered from the stress response and/or sustained stress, difficulty speaking will completely disappear.

If you are having difficulty containing your worry, you may want to connect with one of our anxiety disorder therapists, coaches, or counselors. As we mentioned, working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to overcome what seems like unmanageable worry.

For a more detailed explanation about anxiety symptoms including difficulty speaking, why symptoms can persist long after the stress response has ended, common barriers to recovery and symptom elimination, and more recovery strategies and tips, we have many chapters that address this information in the Recovery Support area of our website.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.

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Additional Resources:

Return to our anxiety symptoms page.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and coaching/counseling/therapy for problematic anxiety and its sensations and symptoms, including the anxiety symptom difficulty speaking.