Other Symptoms

How to Keep Anxiety From Constraining Your Voice

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10, 2020

How to Keep Anxiety From Constraining Your Voice

Many people find that their anxiety stops them from speaking in public. Anxiety is very constraining, because it makes people more worried about the outcome of their thoughts than they need to be.

When anxiety constraints your voice it can be a problem socially, professionally, and personally. That's why you need to make sure that you learn the proper tips to ensuring that you can speak in public.

Causes of Constraining Voice

Constrained voice is by definition the inability to get yourself to talk. While not always anxiety related, some people find that anxiety makes them feel like it's impossible to give their thoughts or share their opinion, and this type of shyness is known as "self-constraining."

There are many different causes staying silent as a result of anxiety. If you have an anxiety disorder, this is actually a very common symptom because anxiety can create negative emotions that make wanting to speak up more difficult.

Most of the time this type of shyness comes from various negative and problematic thought processes from anxiety. These include:

  • Fear of Being Judged Far and away the most common reason that people feel like they are unable to talk in public is the fear of being judged. Many people find that they have this overwhelming fear that if they say something, others will judge them. It's not always that overt - meaning, you can have this fear without necessarily thinking about this specific issue - but anxiety causes many people to worry about how they're seen in social situations, and whether it's at work or when you're out with others there's often this overwhelming fear that comes from the idea that others can judge you.
  • Self-Doubt Another problem that is common in those with anxiety is self-doubt, or the belief that their ideas or feelings are not equal to that of others. Self-doubt comes from personal anxiety, as many people develop this feeling like they are less than others and that their ideas are not going to be as valued. Self-doubt comes from anxiety because anxiety causes negative thinking about oneself, which in turn is translated into believing that their ideas may not be important.
  • Overthinking Experience Constrained voice may also be related to specific experiences that come from another anxiety symptom - overthinking. Those with anxiety are prone to thinking a great deal about what they're going to say. They think about it so much that they end up overthinking and then tripping over their words as they try too hard to be perfect. Eventually these people may become afraid to speak at all, because they trip over their words too often.
  • General Attention Anxiety Similar to the fear of being judged, many people simply have anxiety when others pay attention to them. At its heart it is the same problem, but for some people they do not necessarily care what others think so much as they simply cannot help but feel extreme, intense anxiety when others are looking at them or silent for them. Most likely it's an association with being judged - so that even though the person doesn't care about those particular people judging them, they are used to feeling anxiety when others pay attention to them because in other scenarios they may care about being judged.

This is at the heart of every fear of public speaking, and affects people during meetings, when out with friends, at events, and more.

It's also a self-sustaining fear, which is another problem that comes from anxiety. Once you've had this fear, you'll often find that you reinforce it. It's a common problem in many types of anxiety, and comes from basic behavioral principles:

  • You fear speaking in public.
  • You have an opportunity to speak in public.
  • Because of that fear, you avoid speaking. Your fear deceases.
  • Now not speaking is associated with taking away the fear.

Similarly, every once in a while someone that is generally very shy will still venture out. This similarly can create a cycle of fear:

  • You fear speaking in public.
  • You have an opportunity to speak in public.
  • Despite your fear you speak.
  • You are overwhelmed with fear.
  • Your idea isn't heart, or you're too quiet, or you see dissatisfaction in others (even if it's not there).
  • Your fear is considered confirmed/warranted, and the next time you have an opportunity to speak in public you'll experience too much fear and will have a constrained voice.

These types of cycles are major issues with many different types of anxiety, particularly as they relate to social settings and phobias.

How to Overcome Constrained Voice

Overcoming this fear is a process, and something that will take longer than overnight to cure. It also takes commitment, because it's easy to fall back into your old habits and undo any of the gains you've made. Some tips to overcome this issue include:

  • Start Strong Many people go into situations believing they'll talk and finding that they can't. Part of that comes from sitting around and expecting to suddenly get that burst of energy. Instead, you should immediately start strong - not just at a meeting or social event, but all day. Talk loudly to your barista at the local coffee shop. Say hi and be friendly immediately to the people you know when you enter a room. Lots of speaking involves getting into a groove, and part of getting into this groove is ensuring you start the groove in the first place.
  • Adjust to Individual Fears Obviously if it was possible to simply no longer have a constrained voice, you would. So until then, learn how to adapt to individual fears. For example, if you fear getting embarrassed, go and do something to get embarrassed on purpose. Find a local street and try to hand bananas to strangers for 10 hours until it's not embarrassing anymore. This type of activity allows what used to be fearful events to be less fearful. You can do this for a variety of your fears and see if it helps you fear those emotions less.
  • Practice Work your way up. What do you find easier than others? Start there and keep adding people until you have an easier time speaking. For example, let's say that you are fine in meetings of 3 but not in meetings of 12. Try to organize meetings of 4, then 5, then 6, and keep making gains throughout. Not everything is going to be under your control, but you can often work your way in terms of comfort towards the final number.

You're also going to need to learn to control your overall anxiety, because anxiety will always bleed into your life if you don't learn how to keep it under control.

Questions? Comments?

Do you have a specific question that this article didn’t answered? Send us a message and we’ll answer it for you!

Ask Doctor a Question


Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient


You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

Ask Doctor a Question

Read This Next

This is a highly respected resource Trusted Source

🍪 Pssst, we have Cookies!

We use Cookies to give you the best online experience. More information can be found here. By continuing you accept the use of Cookies in accordance with our Cookie Policy.