According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), anxiety disorders affect roughly 19 percent of people in the United States. Anxiety disorders often cause a wide variety of chronic symptoms, such as fatigue, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, and more. For some people, anxiety can even affect the way they speak, leading to speech that is faster, slower, or possibly even slurred.
In this article, we’ll discuss whether anxiety can cause slurred speech, how anxiety can affect your speech, and how to get help if anxiety is negatively impacting your daily life.
Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder, often caused by brain changes or damage, that occurs due to muscle weakness in the face, lips, tongue, throat, or around the lungs. When people develop slurred speech, such as after a stroke, it’s usually due to the development of dysarthria.
In some people, anxiety can lead to symptoms that mimic those found in motor speech disorders, such as slurred speech. However, slurred speech that’s caused by anxiety isn’t the same as slurred speech caused by dysarthria. In fact, it’s rare for anxiety to cause slurred speech at all.
“In speech therapy, I have seen short-term memory deficits and difficulty with concentration with anxiety, as well as accelerated rate of speech,” said Jennifer Daniels, MA, CCC-SLP, a speech language pathologist in Columbus, Ohio. “But not slurred speech, per se.”
So, in what ways could anxiety potentially lead to slurred speech? As it turns out, anxiety can have a negative impact on both the cognitive element of producing speech, as well as the physical act of speaking.
When you become anxious, increased tension in the muscles of the jaw or face can have an impact on your speech.
“Muscle tension can cause speech to sound different, as you are not able to manipulate sounds in the same way as normal,” explained Daniels. “Your pharynx and oral cavity have to move in certain ways for sounds to resonate properly.”
An increase in muscle tension may make it more difficult for the mouth and tongue to produce words in a clear, concise manner. In some cases, there’s the potential that speech may begin to sound “slurred” because of this.
Anxiety is also a common cause of racing thoughts and faster speech, both of which can make communication more difficult. People who are anxious may feel like they can’t keep up with their thoughts and may speak much faster as a result, which can cause stuttering or slurring.
Communication difficulties due to anxiety may become even more apparent among people with other underlying speech impairments, as well.
“Sometimes, when there are other underlying conditions that have impacted speech, anxiety can increase the severity of those symptoms,” explained Daniels. “For example, in post-stroke patients who become more anxious, the speech impairments that are present may become more severe.”
In some cases, certain underlying anxiety conditions may impact speech more than others, such as somatic OCD or
In addition, panic attacks can sometimes cause a variety of concerning symptoms, many of which can feel more extreme than “standard” anxiety symptoms. Since panic attacks tend to come on more suddenly, changes to the speech that occur with anxiety, such as slurring, may become more severe during a panic attack.
But while anxiety may be a potential cause of slurred speech, it isn’t necessarily one that Daniels has seen much in practice. “Generally, most motor speech impairments, such as slurred speech and trouble articulating words, are secondary to neurological impairments, such as nerve damage and brain damage,” she clarified.
While slurred speech may not be an extremely common symptom of anxiety, anxiety can still impact speech in other ways:
- When you become anxious, your mouth may become dry and your voice may become shaky, both of which can make it hard to get words out.
- You may experience decreased concentration, which can cause you to stumble over or forget words.
- You may also notice that your speech becomes slower or that you stutter more often, both of which can be mistaken for “slurred” speech.
In one study from 2011, researchers evaluated the impact of anxiety on communicative performance in study participants. Twenty-four participants were asked to speak about an anxious moment in their lives, and their speech patterns were analyzed. According to the researchers, participants with high anxiety demonstrated changes in both voice control and articulation.
Ultimately, the way anxiety affects speech depends on the person. Since everyone experiences anxiety differently, some people may experience no changes in speech, while others may experience changes in the way they talk, sound, or communicate overall.
Tips for getting your speech back to normal
If you’re someone whose speech is greatly impacted by your anxiety, there are some practices that can help restore your typical speech pattern. Try these tips the next time you’re anxious and notice your speech becoming more difficult:
- Take a deep breath. Although it can be difficult to calm down in a moment of anxiety, deep breathing has been shown to help slow down the sympathetic nervous system and reduce the anxious response. Before you start talking, try to take a few deep breaths to slow yourself down.
- Slow down your speech. It can be hard to slow down the way you speak when your mind is racing with anxious thoughts, but intentionally slowing down your speech can be a great mindful exercise. When speaking, pronouncing your words clearly and concisely can also help slow down your speech.
- Keep your sentences short. Sometimes anxiety can make it difficult to use your regular vocabulary, so it can help to keep your sentences short and to the point. If you’re having trouble recalling certain words or concepts, try not to panic — this is a completely normal symptom of anxiety.
- Don’t force anxiety away. When you’re anxious, it can be tempting to want to fight the feeling and make it go away as quickly as possible. However, this can often make anxiety worse. One of the best things you can do when anxious is to allow the feeling to pass naturally as much as possible.
Anxiety is a natural response to stress. For some people, anxiety can become chronic, excessive, and disruptive. If you’re struggling with anxiety that’s negatively impacting your daily life, schedule a visit with your doctor.
Many of the symptoms of anxiety can be caused by other health conditions, so your doctor will likely use diagnostic testing to help eliminate any other causes of your symptoms first. Once your doctor can rule out other health concerns, you’ll be referred to a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, for an official diagnosis.
According to the
- excessive anxiety for at least 6 months, on most days
- symptoms of restlessness, fatigue, trouble concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances for at least 6 months, on most days
- difficulty controlling your worry or anxiety
- anxiety that causes significant clinical distress or impairment in your everyday life
- anxiety that isn’t caused by any other mental or physical illnesses
A mental health professional will diagnose you depending on the exact symptoms you’re experiencing. Some of the most commonly diagnosed anxiety-related conditions include:
- generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- specific phobias
Anxiety disorders are generally treated with a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that’s been shown to be effective at treating both depression and anxiety. CBT works by helping you change your thoughts, behaviors, and feelings towards anxiety. Psychotherapy, especially CBT, can be used in conjunction with medication to help treat anxiety disorders.
Medications for anxiety include long-acting medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and short-acting medications, such as benzodiazepines. SSRIs and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) have been shown to be most effective for anxiety and are commonly combined with therapy for treatment.
In addition to psychotherapy and medication, lifestyle changes can help create positive habits and reduce stress in people with anxiety disorders. Exercise can help promote the release of feel-good hormones in the brain. Relaxation activities, like meditation or yoga, can also help reduce stress — mentally and physically.
In addition to anxiety, slurred speech can also be caused by:
- severe fatigue
- neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease
- stroke or other brain injuries
- certain medications, such as sedatives
- excess alcohol consumption
Although anxiety can cause your speech to sound somewhat slurred, you should still pay close attention to other developing symptoms.
“If you are experiencing slurred speech that comes on suddenly or with other symptoms that can be consistent with a stroke,” said Daniels, “it’s very important to seek immediate help.”
Symptoms of stroke include:
- numbness or weakness in the arm, face, and leg, especially on one side of the body
- trouble speaking or understanding speech
- vision problems, such as trouble seeing in one or both eyes with vision blackened or blurred, or double vision
- trouble walking
- loss of balance or coordination
- severe, sudden headache with an unknown cause
Finding care for anxiety
If you’re concerned that your anxiety is negatively affecting your life, it may be time to seek professional help. Here are some tips for how to find a mental health specialist in your area:
- Reach out to your doctor. Your primary care doctor can provide you with a referral for mental health professionals in your area.
- Use the SAMHSA database. You can find other mental health professionals in your area through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) database.
- Consider doing online therapy. You can sign up for an online therapy service if you’d prefer to do therapy from the comfort of your own home.
While slurred speech that is caused by anxiety is rare, it can happen. More often than not, this condition is neither permanent nor dangerous. In fact, as with most anxiety symptoms, these speech changes will resolve as soon as the anxiety dissipates.
However, if you’re someone who frequently experiences slurred speech when you’re anxious, you may benefit from professional help. With the right mental health treatment options, you can get your anxiety under control and reduce your symptoms in the long run.
If you have developed speech issues that don’t go away or get worse over time, make sure to schedule a visit with your doctor as soon as possible, as there may be another underlying condition impacting your speech.
In some people, anxiety can lead to symptoms that mimic those found in motor speech disorders, such as slurred speech. However, slurred speech that's caused by anxiety isn't the same as slurred speech caused by dysarthria. In fact, it's rare for anxiety to cause slurred speech at all.Can stress and anxiety cause speech problems? ›
In some cases, anxiety can affect one's ability to speak clearly and concisely when interacting with others, causing speech to be slower or faster than normal, and in some cases, speech can become jumbled or slurred.How do I stop slurred speech from anxiety? ›
There isn't a specific treatment for slurred speech because slurred speech is simply a response to anxiety. One thing you should do, however, is avoid forcing the words out. If your speech is slurring, forcing yourself to speak is going to add more stress.What are 3 symptoms of speech anxiety? ›
Some of the most common symptoms of speech anxiety are: shaking, sweating, butterflies in the stomach, dry mouth, rapid heartbeat, and squeaky voice. Although it is often impossible to completely eliminate speech anxiety there are a variety of ways to deal with it and even make it work to your advantage.What causes random slurred speech? ›
Dysarthria often causes slurred or slow speech that can be difficult to understand. Common causes of dysarthria include nervous system disorders and conditions that cause facial paralysis or tongue or throat muscle weakness. Certain medications also can cause dysarthria.Can anxiety feel like a stroke? ›
Panic attacks are often confused with heart attacks or strokes. They share many of the same symptoms: Racing heart. Chest pains or tightness.What is dysfunctional speech anxiety? ›
Dysfunctional speech anxiety is caused by self-defeating thoughts like catastrophic thinking, perfectionist thinking, the illusion of transparency, or the desire for complete approval; or from anxiety-provoking situations like the novelty of the speaking situation, conspicuousness, or the types of speeches.What illnesses can cause slurred speech? ›
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease.
- Brain injury.
- Brain tumors.
- Cerebral palsy.
- Guillain-Barre syndrome.
- Huntington's disease.
- Lyme disease.
When stress responses are active, we can experience a wide range of abnormal actions, such as mixing up our words when speaking. Many anxious and overly stressed people experience mixing up their words when speaking. Because this is just another symptom of anxiety and/or stress, it needn't be a need for concern.Why can't I think clearly anymore? ›
This can be caused by overworking, lack of sleep, stress, and spending too much time on the computer. On a cellular level, brain fog is believed to be caused by high levels inflammation and changes to hormones that determine your mood, energy and focus.
The most common form of Social Phobia is public speaking anxiety. Students experiencing public speaking anxiety say they are concerned they will be embarrassed if they speak. They say they are worried they will make a mistake, look “stupid” to others, or be judged unattractive.What are the two types of speech anxiety? ›
- Trait-anxiety: This type of anxiety is typically aligned with an individual's personality. ...
- State-anxiety: This type of anxiety is usually due to the external situation in which individuals find themselves.
- a past traumatic incident with speaking in public.
- history of anxiety or other mental health condition.
- shy or nervous around others.
- fear that others are judging you.
- self-consciousness in front of a large group of people.
In addition, when stress and anxiety are present, the function of the brain to produce coherent thoughts can also be affected. For many people living with chronic anxiety, slurred speech, as well as issues that resemble slurred speech can be common.Should I be concerned about slurred speech? ›
It's extremely important to call 911 right away if you suddenly have slurred speech. Getting immediate treatment is critical to minimizing permanent damage.Can mental illness cause slurred speech? ›
Speech deficits, notably those involved in psychomotor retardation, blunted affect, alogia and poverty of content of speech, are pronounced in a wide range of serious mental illnesses (e.g., schizophrenia, unipolar depression, bipolar disorders).What is a pre stroke? ›
Pre-strokes or mini strokes are the common terms used to describe a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Unlike a full blown stroke, a TIA only lasts a few minutes and does not cause permanent damage. Nevertheless it is a warning sign that a possible stroke may be coming in the future.How does a mini-stroke feel? ›
A person experiencing a TIA might feel sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, have slurred speech, have trouble seeing or talking, and feel confused. The person may experience a combination of these symptoms at the same time.How do you know if it's anxiety or stroke? ›
Rapid/Gradual Both panic attacks and strokes can come on somewhat rapidly, but strokes are almost always instant, while a panic attack generally peaks around 10 minutes in and then slowly fades. With a mini-stroke, the symptoms occur almost immediately. Any anxiety tends to come after.What are the 4 phases of speech anxiety symptoms? ›
- catastrophic thinking-fear of failure.
- Perfectionist thinking.
- desire for complete approval.
- Illusion of transparency (nervous about looking nervous)
A pinched or damaged nerve in your spine may lead to blurred vision or headaches, loss of hearing, slurred speech, and bowel and bladder problems, to name a few.Is slurred speech a symptom of ALS? ›
ALS often begins with muscle twitching and weakness in an arm or leg, trouble swallowing or slurred speech. Eventually ALS affects control of the muscles needed to move, speak, eat and breathe. There is no cure for this fatal disease.What can cause brain fog and slurred speech? ›
Brain fog could be a sign of early-onset cognitive decline. Other medical causes. Anemia, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, thyroid issues, and various other health conditions can also affect your brain functions.Can anxiety mimic aphasia? ›
People with PPA can experience many different types of language symptoms. In many instances, the person with PPA may be the first to note that something is wrong and the complaints may initially be attributed to stress or anxiety.What is it called when you can't talk because of anxiety? ›
Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder where a person is unable to speak in certain social situations, such as with classmates at school or to relatives they do not see very often. It usually starts during childhood and, if left untreated, can persist into adulthood.Does anxiety cause dysphasia? ›
Some cases of dysphagia are due to structural abnormalities or disease, and some are considered functional, where there is no apparent physical cause. Psychiatric reasons for dysphagia include anxiety disorders, phobias, somatic symptom disorder, and more.What does a brain burnout feel like? ›
“You notice things like being more irritable, more destructive, less motivated, less hopeful,” said Amy Arnsten, a professor of neuroscience at Yale School of Medicine who studies the neural mechanisms of burnout.What are the symptoms of a brain shutdown? ›
feel overwhelmed — unable to concentrate or make decisions. be moody — feeling low or depression; feeling burnt out; emotional outbursts of uncontrollable anger, fear, helplessness or crying. feel depersonalised — not feeling like themselves or feeling detached from situations.How long does anxiety brain fog last? ›
How long brain fog lasts can vary from person to person. A common duration is a range from several days to a few weeks. You can clear the fog sooner rather than later by making positive lifestyle changes and taking care of yourself, especially your brain.What mental disorders cause anxiety? ›
Examples of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), specific phobias and separation anxiety disorder. You can have more than one anxiety disorder. Sometimes anxiety results from a medical condition that needs treatment.
Lower scores indicate less apprehension about speaking in public. Scores can range from 6 to 30. Moderate levels of anxiety toward speaking in public range from 13.75 to 20.75, and high levels oscillate from 20.75 to 30. The validity and reliability of this scale are well known.How many stages of speech anxiety are there? ›
There are four phases to speech anxiety symptoms (Witt et al., 2006).What is one reason people have speech anxiety? ›
The fear often arises when people overestimate the stakes of communicating their ideas in front of others, viewing the speaking event as a potential threat to their credibility, image, and chance to reach an audience.Can depression cause slurred speech? ›
Depressed patients' tongues and breath may also become uncoordinated, resulting in a slight slurring of speech. These types of vocal traits — called paraverbal features — are detectable in other mental illnesses too, including bipolar and post‐traumatic stress disorder.Can you have slurred speech before a stroke? ›
What are the signs of stroke in men and women? Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body. Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech.Can fatigue cause slurred speech? ›
These symptoms can be associated with different medical conditions including multiple sclerosis and anemia, although slurred speech is less common with anemia. Mononucleosis is an infection that causes fatigue and severe sore throat that could cause speech problems.Can heart problems cause slurred speech? ›
If atherosclerosis is in the arteries leading to your brain, you may experience a sudden numbness or weakness in your arms or legs, difficulty speaking or slurred speech, or drooping muscles in your face.What are the signs of stress in speech? ›
When talking, stressed individuals exhibit behaviors such as voicing irregularities, discontinuties in frequency contours, irregular vocal fold vibration, and even vocal tremor.Can anxiety cause communication problems? ›
When you feel anxious, you might behave in ways that are designed to avoid communicating with others. For example, you may avoid eye contact or speak very softly. In other words, you are trying not to communicate, likely to avoid being judged negatively by others.What mental disorders cause speech problems? ›
Types of speech disorder include stuttering, apraxia, and dysarthria. There are many possible causes of speech disorders, including muscles weakness, brain injuries, degenerative diseases, autism, and hearing loss. Speech disorders can affect a person's self-esteem and their overall quality of life.
- Irritable, angry, impatient or wound up.
- Over-burdened or overwhelmed.
- Anxious, nervous or afraid.
- Like your thoughts are racing and you can't switch off.
- Unable to enjoy yourself.
- Uninterested in life.
- Like you've lost your sense of humour.
- a churning feeling in your stomach.
- feeling light-headed or dizzy.
- pins and needles.
- feeling restless or unable to sit still.
- headaches, backache or other aches and pains.
- faster breathing.
- a fast, thumping or irregular heartbeat.
- sweating or hot flushes.
If your symptoms affect your mental health or make everyday life difficult, it's a good idea to see a doctor. Your primary care provider can rule out medical issues that cause the same symptoms. If your physical symptoms have no medical cause, you could have anxiety.Can you have aphasia without having a stroke? ›
Aphasia usually happens suddenly after a stroke or a head injury. But it can also come on gradually from a slow-growing brain tumor or a disease that causes progressive, permanent damage (degenerative). The severity of aphasia depends on a number of things, including the cause and the extent of the brain damage.Can anxiety mimic a neurological disorder? ›
The severity of one's anxiety plays a key role in the development of symptoms that can sometimes look nearly identical to neurological problems. Millions of people with anxiety have physical symptoms that resemble neurological diseases such as: Multiple Sclerosis. Brain Tumors.What are the 2 types of anxiety? ›
There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and various phobia-related disorders.Why do I feel like I can't talk sometimes? ›
Dysarthria means difficulty speaking. It can be caused by brain damage or by brain changes occurring in some conditions affecting the nervous system, or related to ageing. It can affect people of all ages. If dysarthria occurs suddenly, call 999, it may be being caused by a stroke.What is tangential speech? ›
 Tangentiality refers to a disturbance in the thought process that causes the individual to relate excessive or irrelevant detail that never reaches the essential point of a conversation or the desired answer to a question.Can speech problems be neurological? ›
Neurologic voice disorders can be the first sign that a person has a neurological condition. Slurred speech can also be a sign of the onset of a stroke. If you are already diagnosed with a neurological condition, neurologic voice disorders can be part of disease progression.