“All of us at anxietycentre.com have experienced debilitating anxiety. But we’ve also overcome it and returned to normal and lasting health. Because we know the hardship anxiety unwellness can cause, we are committed to helping others, with over 30 years of service.” - Jim Folk, President, anxietycentre.com

Difficulty speaking, talking, co-ordination problems with mouth or tongue

Jim Folk author
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: October 18, 2019


Difficulty Talking, Speaking, Moving Mouth, Tongue, Lips Anxiety image

Difficulty speaking and talking, or moving the mouth, tongue, or lips are common symptoms of anxiety disorder, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and others.

To see if anxiety might be playing a role in your anxiety symptoms, rate your level of anxiety using our free one-minute instant results Anxiety Test or Anxiety Disorder Test. The higher the rating, the more likely it could be contributing to your anxiety symptoms, including having difficulty talking or moving your mouth, tongue, or lips.

This article explains the relationship between anxiety and the difficulty talking symptom.

Difficulty speaking, talking, moving mouth, tongue, or lips anxiety symptoms descriptions:

  • Having difficulty or unusual awkwardness speaking; pronouncing words, syllables, or vowels.
  • Having difficulty moving your mouth, tongue, or lips.
  • Suddenly become self-conscious of your problems talking, speaking, moving your mouth, tongue, or lips.
  • Uncharacteristically slurring your speech.
  • You are uncharacteristically speaking much slower or faster than normal.
  • You are uncharacteristically jumbling up words or fumbling over your words when speaking.
  • You find that your mouth, tongue, or lips aren’t moving the way they normally would.
  • Your mouth, tongue, lips, or facial muscles aren’t responding the way they normally do.
  • It can feel as if your face muscles are unusually stiff, which is making talking difficult and forced.
  • It can feel as if your face has been anesthetized somewhat, making speaking or moving your mouth, tongue, or lips difficult.

This symptom is often described as “slurred speech.”

This symptom can persistently affect just the mouth, lips, or tongue only, can affect more than one at the same time, can shift from one to another, and can involve all of them over and over again.

Having difficulty speaking can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you might have difficulty speaking once in a while and not that often, have difficulty speaking or moving your mouth, tongue or lips off and on, or have difficulty all the time.

Difficulty speaking can precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself. It can also precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur “out of the blue” and for no apparent reason.

This symptom can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves where these mouth and speaking symptoms are strong one moment and ease off the next.

This symptom can change from day to day and from moment to moment.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

Difficulty speaking or moving your mouth, tongue, or lips can seem more troublesome when in social, professional, or public settings.

Why does anxiety cause difficulty speaking, talking, or moving your mouth, tongue, or lips?

Medical Advisory

We recommend all new, changing, persistent, and returning anxiety symptoms be discussed with your doctor as some medical conditions and medications can cause anxiety-like symptoms, including this anxiety symptom. If your doctor concludes your symptoms are solely anxiety-related, you can be confident there isn't a medical cause. Generally, doctors can easily determine the difference between anxiety symptoms and those caused by a medical condition.

Doctors aren't infallible, however. If you are uncertain about your doctor’s diagnosis, you can seek a second or more opinions. But if all opinions agree, you can be assured anxiety is the cause of this symptom.

When this symptom is caused by anxiety, there are many reasons why anxiety can cause this symptom. Here are two of the most common:

1. Stress response

Behaving anxiously activates the stress response, also known as the fight or flight response. The stress response causes body-wide changes that prepare the body for immediate emergency action.[1][2] Because of the many changes, stress responses stress the body.

A part of these changes include altering brain function so that our attention is primarily focused on danger detection and reaction, and stimulating the nervous system so that the body is energized and can react quickly.[2] These changes can affect muscle movements, including the muscles in the mouth, tongue, and lips.

Many people experience difficulty talking and moving their mouth, tongue, or lips when anxious and stressed.

2. Hyperstimulation

When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly. When stress responses occur too frequently, however, the body can’t complete its recovery. Consequently, the body remains in a state of semi stress response readiness. We call this state “stress-response hyperstimulation” since stress hormones are stimulants.[3][4]

Hyperstimulation can keep the stress response changes active even though a stress response hasn’t been activated. Chronic difficulty speaking, talking, and co-ordination problems with the mouth, tongue, and lips are common symptoms of hyperstimulation.

There are many other reasons why anxiety can cause this symptom. We explain these additional reasons under the symptom “Difficulty Speaking” in the Symptoms section (chapter 9) in the Recovery Support area of our website. The Symptoms section lists and explains all of the symptoms associated with anxiety.

How to stop the difficulty talking and moving the mouth, tongue, or lips anxiety symptoms?

When this anxiety symptom is caused by apprehensive behavior and the accompanying stress response changes, calming yourself down will bring an end to the active stress response and its changes. As your body recovers from the active stress response, this anxiety symptom should subside. Keep in mind it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. This is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

When difficulty speaking or moving your mouth, tongue, or lips is caused by chronic stress (hyperstimulation), such as from overly apprehensive behavior, it can take much longer for the body to calm down and recover, and to the point where this anxiety symptom subsides.

Nevertheless, since this symptom is a common symptom of anxiety and stress, it needn't be a cause for concern or worry. This symptom subsides when you’ve eliminated the active stress response or hyperstimulation.

As the body recovers, difficulty speaking and talking, or moving your mouth, tongue, and lips problems disappear and normal functioning returns.

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

But again, these types of symptoms are common for anxiety and stress. Therefore, they needn’t be a cause for concern.

For a more detailed explanation about all anxiety symptoms, 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.

Therapy

If you are having difficulty containing your worry, you might want to connect with one of our recommended anxiety disorder therapists to help you learn this important skill. Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to overcome what seem like unmanageable worry and problems with anxiety.


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.


Additional Resources:


Return to Anxiety Disorders Signs and Symptoms section.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and coaching/counseling/therapy for problematic anxiety and its sensations and symptoms, including the anxiety symptom difficulty speaking, talking, and/or moving your mouth or tongue.


REFERENCES:

1. Selye, H. (1956). The stress of life. New York, NY, US: McGraw-Hill.

2. Folk, Jim and Folk, Marilyn. “The Stress Response And Anxiety Symptoms.” anxietycentre.com, August 2019.

3. Hannibal, Kara E., and Mark D. Bishop. “Chronic Stress, Cortisol Dysfunction, and Pain: A Psychoneuroendocrine Rationale for Stress Management in Pain Rehabilitation.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2014.

4. Justice, Nicholas J., et al. “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder-Like Induction Elevates β-Amyloid Levels, Which Directly Activates Corticotropin-Releasing Factor Neurons to Exacerbate Stress Responses.” Journal of Neuroscience, Society for Neuroscience, 11 Feb. 2015.