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Can Anxiety Cause Slurred Speech?

Last updated: February 24, 2024

Anxiety is known to affect motor skills. However, to which extent does it do this, and does it also impact speech?

We consulted the experts to get a better grasp of the effects of anxiety on speech. Here is a thorough compilation of their professional views.

Anxiety Leads To Symptoms Similar to Slurred Speech Disorders

Anxiety-related speech slurring is a rare occurrence. More often than not anxiety can only lead to symptoms that only mimic speech slurred disorders. What really causes speech slurring is a motor speech disorder called Dysarthria.

Anxiety Can Cause Tension in Muscles That Make it Hard Speak

If you don't have any motor speech impairments, your anxiousness will most likely trigger your cognitive ability to speak. Anxiety twitches your muscles, causing muscle tensions that might make it very difficult for your mouth and tongue to generate distinct, precise phrases. It's possible that you'll come across as slurring your words.

Anxiety Can Result In Jumbled Thought and Speech

Anxiety can also result in rushed thoughts and speech, making communication more difficult. Anxiety might cause you to feel like you can't keep up with your emotions, and so; as a result, you might talk more quickly, which could also lead to stuttering or slurring.

Erin Zadoorian, an Executive Editor and CEO of the Ministry of Hemp

Anxiety and Speech Problems Are Closely Related

Experts will say no, but they may be related. When your muscles tighten up, your thoughts race, you sweat and perhaps feel other symptoms of nervousness, you are experiencing anxiety. These feelings may also relate to difficulty speaking. But does that mean that anxiety is causing the difficulty? The two can be closely related, and speech problems can certainly lead to anxiety.

  1. Anxiety can make an existing speech problem worse.
  2. People often have anxiety after strokes, the effects of which usually include a problem with speech to some extent.
  3. Anxiety can impact the entire body, not just the speech center in the mind

The impact of anxiety can be different for each of us. So, while we usually do not consider anxiety to be a cause of slurred speech, we need to acknowledge that the physical impact may lead to the discovery of a potential speech problem. 

If you are finding that anxiety is impacting your ability to speak the way you would like, a certified speech therapist can help you develop skills to help you be less anxious when speaking, such as:

  1. How to organize your thoughts and overcome nervousness related to speaking
  2. How to be more confident in social situations
  3. Overcoming challenges with articulation, pronunciation, lisp, and other speech challenges.

Jessica Fitzgerald, (M.S., CCC-SLP) Clinical Director Better Speech

Anxiety Can Cause Slurred And Impaired Speech On Physical And Mental Levels

Physically, muscle tension caused by anxiety can cause the throat to close up and the mouth to dry out, making it difficult for the mouth and tongue to produce clear speech. Signals in the brain tell the body it is in danger and manifests this through excessive sweating, trembling rapid heart rate, and nausea.

Symptoms are impossible to control during a panic attack. People with anxiety will often avoid situations where they would meet new people or be forced to speak. 

Mentally, anxiety affects concentration and focus, which are both needed to make speech coherent. An attack can also cause speech to slow and soften as the patient tries to downplay the physical symptoms. 

Some people with anxiety disorders can go non-verbal, unable to speak when put under stress. An extreme form of this is selective mutism, a disorder that disallows someone to speak in certain social interactions, despite having all the skills to do so. Symptoms can manifest in extreme shyness, compulsive habits, and withdrawal from situations for fear of social Embarrassment.

Some techniques to cope with in-the-moment anxiety symptoms are: 

  1. Deep breathing to slow heart rate
  2. Applying ice or cold water to their neck, face, or wrists to shock the body out of an attack
  3. Finding a private place to cry or let the emotion run its course
  4. Listening to the body & leaving the stressful situation.

While these are a temporary fix for anxiety symptoms, long-term solutions for speech affected by anxiety can be found through psychotherapy and medication.

Dr. Bryan Bruno, Medical Director at Mid City TMS

Does Anxiety Affect Speech?

There are some cases where anxiety doesn’t affect speech at all, but most of the time, it does. According to a study about the correlation of anxiety and communication, “Anxiety interferes with the individual's ability to express and communicate through body, speech, and/or voice.” 

In short, anxiety can cause disruption to how a person expresses herself/himself, including speech itself. I have seen many people who are having a hard time expressing themselves, even myself, so I agree with what the study shows.

The more anxious the subject is, the higher the probability of him/her realizing its anxiety through self-evaluation and for the interlocutor to notice the influence of anxiety in his/her communication.

Does Anxiety Cause Slurred Speech?

Yes, it does. Like what I’ve said in the above statement, anxiety can cause disruption in speech, and it means that a person can also encounter or experience having a slow speech or inability to speak louder. In most cases, when a person is nervous or having an anxiety attack, they tend to speak slower than usual, or they just mumble some words. 

How Can We Know If Anxiety Causes Slurred Speech?

According to the study I have mentioned above, “The more anxious/nervous the subject is, the higher the chances of him/her realizing its anxiety through self-evaluation and for the interlocutor to notice the influence of anxiety in his/her communication”. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is slurred speech a common symptom of anxiety?

While slurred speech is not a typical symptom of anxiety, it can occur in some cases. Anxiety may cause various physical symptoms, including muscle tension, rapid breathing, and an increased heart rate, which can potentially affect speech patterns and lead to slurred speech in some individuals.

What should I do if I experience slurred speech during anxiety episodes?

If you experience slurred speech during anxiety episodes, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying medical conditions. Additionally, working with a therapist or counselor can help you develop coping strategies to manage your anxiety and address any associated speech difficulties.

Can treating anxiety improve slurred speech?

If slurred speech is a result of anxiety, treating the underlying anxiety may help improve your speech. Various treatment options, such as therapy, medication, or lifestyle changes, can help you manage anxiety symptoms. It's important to work with a healthcare professional to develop an individualized treatment plan that addresses your specific needs.

Chris Christensen is a social worker, a traveler, and a music enthusiast. Currently works at Roots Through Recovery as a Personal Care Assistant.

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