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Bad Taste In Mouth and Anxiety

Jim Folk author
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: October 22, 2019


bad taste in the mouth anxiety symptoms image

Bad taste in the mouth, including having a metalic, blood-like, ammonia, and other odd tasts are often 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 a bad taste in the mouth.

This article explains the relationship between anxiety and having bad or unusual tastes in the mouth.

Bad taste in mouth anxiety symptom common descriptions:

  • You have an unusual, awful, or bad taste in your mouth.
  • You have a "blood-like" taste in the mouth for no apparent reason.
  • You have an ammonia or bitter taste in your mouth yet you haven’t ingested anything that could cause this taste.
  • This unusual or bad taste is not related to anything you’ve eaten or anything you’ve done recently.
  • No matter what you do, your bad taste won’t go away.
  • This bad taste isn’t related to anything dental.
  • Even after you brush your teeth or use mouthwash, the bad taste in your mouth returns.
  • This bad taste can change from one type of unsavory taste to another.

This bad taste in the mouth anxiety symptom can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you have a bad taste in the mouth once and a while and not that often, have it off and on, or have it all the time.

This bad taste in the mouth anxiety symptom can precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety symptoms, or occur by itself.

This bad taste in the mouth anxiety symptom can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and stress, or occur “out of the blue” and for no apparent reason.

This bad taste in the mouth anxiety symptom 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.

This bad taste in the mouth anxiety symptom can change from day to day and from moment to moment.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

What causes having a bad taste in the mouth anxiety symptoms?

Medical Advisory

When this symptom is caused by stress, including anxiety-caused stress, there can be a number of reasons why a bad taste in the mouth can occur, including:

1. The stress response

Apprehensive behavior causes the body to secrete stress hormones into the bloodstream where they travel to targeted spots to bring about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that enhance the body’s ability to deal with a threat – to either fight or flee. This survival reaction is the reason why the stress response is often referred to as the fight or flight response, the emergency response, or the fight, flight, or freeze response (some people freeze when they are afraid like a “deer caught in headlights”).[1][2]

Part of the stress response changes include slowing saliva production and heightening the body’s senses, including the sense of taste. The body does this so that we are more able to quickly detect a problem should one be present. These changes are beneficial when in real danger.

Reduced saliva and an altered sense of taste can cause odd and unusual tastes when the stress response is active.

2. Hyperstimulation (chronic stress)

When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly from the physiological, psychological, and emotional changes the stress response brings about. When stress responses occur too frequently, however, such as from overly apprehensive behavior, the body has a more difficult time recovering, which can cause it to remain in a state of semi stress response readiness. We call this state “stress-response hyperstimulation” since stress hormones are stimulants (also often referred to as "hyperarousal").[3][4]

Hyperstimulation can cause similar changes to an active stress response even though a stress response hasn’t been activated. Having a persistent bad taste in the mouth is a common indication of hyperstimulation (chronic stress).

3. A reduction in saliva can cause harmful bacteria to flourish in the mouth

As mentioned, the stress response suppresses saliva production. Consequently, hyperstimulation can cause persistent saliva suppression.

A chronic reduction in saliva can allow harmful bacteria to build up in the mouth. The buildup of harmful bacteria can alter the flora in your mouth, which can lead to having a bad taste in the mouth from the growth of bacteria.

4. The stress response affects the stomach and digestive system

The stress response also affects the stomach and digestive system.[5] For example, the stress response suppresses digestion so that all of the body’s resources are available for emergency action. These changes can be helpful when in real danger but can cause problems when the stress response is activated too often.

When the body becomes hyperstimulated due to the chronic activation of the stress response, such as from overly apprehensive behavior, we can experience many stomach and digestive system problems. These problems can cause gas, bloating, stomach upset, and fermenting food, which can affect the taste in the mouth.

5. Stress adversely affects the nervous system

Even though the stress response is beneficial when we’re in real danger, the stress response has a dramatic effect on the nervous system. When the nervous system becomes hyperstimulated, it can cause many nerve and nervous system anomalies, including affecting the taste receptors (taste buds) in the mouth.[6]

Moreover, hyperstimulation can cause the nervous system to behave erratically, which can cause the “misreporting” of sensory information, such as taste.[7] Many anxious people experience a bad taste in the mouth due to hyperstimulation and how that affects the body’s nervous system and sensory organs.

6. Hyperstimulation can suppress the body’s immune system making the body more vulnerable to intruders

The stress response also suppresses the body’s immune system.[5] While short-term immune system suppression isn’t harmful, chronic suppression, such as that caused by hyperstimulation, can allow intruders to take hold.

Sinus infections can cause bad, unusual, and odd tastes in the mouth.

7. Hyperstimulation can cause an increase in Candida

Candida albicans is a pathogenic yeast that is a natural microflora found in the GI tract, mouth, and vagina. Most of the time, it causes no issues.[8]

However, stress, which suppresses the immune system and causes an increase in blood sugar, can cause Candida to flourish. An overgrowth of Candida in the mouth can cause a bad taste.

Any one of the above, or combination thereof of stress and anxiety factors, can cause a bad taste in the mouth.

How to get rid of the bad taste in the mouth anxiety symptom?

When this bad taste in the mouth 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, the body returns to its normal functioning and this symptom should 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 shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

When this bad taste in the mouth anxiety symptom is caused by chronic stress, such as that from too frequent stress responses, 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 from chronic stress, this bad taste in the mouth anxiety symptom will completely subside. Therefore, it needn’t be a cause for concern.

You can speed up the recovery process by reducing your body’s stress, practicing relaxed breathing, increasing your rest and relaxation, and not worrying about this symptom. Remember, worrying activates the stress response. So worrying is counterproductive to stress reduction and recovery.

Sure, a bad taste in the mouth can be annoying, but again, when your body has recovered from the stress response or hyperstimulation, the bad taste in the mouth anxiety symptom will subside.

For a more details about how to overcome problematic anxiety, including 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 with problematic anxiety, you might want to connect with one of our recommended anxiety disorder therapists. Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to overcome anxiety disorder and its symptoms.


 

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 bad taste in the mouth.


REFERENCES:

1. Selye H. Endocrine reactions during stress. Anesthesia & Analgesia. 1956;35:182–193. [PubMed]

2. "Understanding the Stress Response - Harvard Health." Harvard Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2016.

3. "The Physiology of Stress: Cortisol and the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis." DUJS Online. N.p., 03 Feb. 2011. Web. 19 May 2016.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Bear, Connors, Paradiso (2016). Neuroscience: Exploring the brain - Fourth Edition. In Sensory and Motor Systems (pp. 265-517). New York, NY: Wolters Kluwer

7. Z, Fatahi, et al. "Effect of acute and subchronic stress on electrical activity of basolateral amygdala neurons in conditioned place preference paradigm: An electrophysiological study." Behavioral Brain Research, 29 Sept. 2017.

8. Jill Seladi-Schulman, PhD. “Candida Albicans: Infections, Symptoms, and Treatments.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 9 Aug. 2018.