Social Anxiety

How Anxiety Can Affect Speech Patterns

  • Anxiety is overwhelming, and it is not surprising that it affects speech.
  • We identify at least 5 different examples of how anxiety affects speech.
  • Speech typically requires focus and concentration, two things anxiety affects.
  • Some types of anxiety are directly related to anxiety while speaking.
  • Some public speaking techniques can also help with anxiety-related speech problems, but addressing anxiety itself will still be most important.
Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated March 1, 2021

How Anxiety Can Affect Speech Patterns

In many ways, anxiety is an overwhelming condition. It overwhelms your senses, it overwhelms your thoughts, and it overwhelms your body. That's why it should come as little surprise to anyone that is suffering from anxiety that it can affect your speech patterns as well.

Anxiety is often apparent in your voice, which is why people can sometimes tell when you're feeling nervous. In this article, we explore some of the ways that anxiety affects speech patterns and what you can do to stop it.

How Anxiety Affects Speech

Different forms of anxiety seem to affect speech in different ways. You should absolutely make sure that you're addressing your anxiety specifically.

Anxiety causes both physical and mental issues that can affect speech. These include:

  • Shaky Voice Perhaps the most well-known speech issue is simply a shaky voice. When you're talking, it feels like your voice box is shaking along with the rest of your body (and it is). That can make it sound like it is cracking or vibrating, both of which are a sign to others that you're nervous.
  • Quiet Voice Those with anxiety - especially social phobia - often find that they also have a hard time speaking up in public. This type of quietness is very common, and while not technically a speech pattern, it can make your entire voice and the way you speak sound different to others. Although many will think of this in terms of volume, talking down at your feet will also exacerbate the effect.
  • Dry Throat/Loss of Voice Some people find that anxiety seems to dry out their throat, or cause them to feel as though they're losing their voice.. One possible reason is that anxiety can make acid reflux symptoms worse, and those with acid reflux do have a tendency to wake up with sore throat and a loss of voice. Anxiety also increases the activity of your nervous system; when your fight or flight response is activated your mouth will naturally produce less saliva as a natural side effect.
  • Trouble Putting Thoughts to Words Not all of the speech pattern symptoms of anxiety are physical either. Some of them are mental. Anxiety can make it much harder to for you to think about the words you're going to say, which can cause you to step over yourself, forget words, replace words with incorrect words, and more. Speaking generally has to be natural to be clear, and when you overthink it's not uncommon to find the opposite effect.
  • Stuttering Similarly, anxiety can create stuttering. Stuttering itself is a separate disorder that can be made worse by anxiety. But beyond that, those that are overthinking their own sentences and word choices often find they end up stuttering a considerable amount, which in turn can create this feeling of embarrassment.

These are only a few of the issues that anxiety has with speech and speech patterns. There are even those that are bilingual that find that when they have anxiety they mix up the languages. Anxiety can do some unusual things to the way you talk to others, and that means that your speech patterns are occasionally very different than you expect them to be.

Are There Ways to Overcome This Type of Anxiety Issue?

Changes in speech patterns can be embarrassing and very unusual for the person that is suffering from them. It's extremely important for you to address your anxiety if you want these speech issues to go away. Only by controlling your anxiety can you expect your ability to speak with others to improve.

That said, there are a few things that you can do now:

  • Start Strong Those with anxiety have a tendency to start speaking quietly and hope that they find it easier to talk later. That rarely works. Ideally, try to start speaking loudly and confidently (even if you're faking it) from the moment you enter a room. That way you don't find yourself muttering as often or as easily.
  • Look at Foreheads Some people find that looking others in the eyes causes further anxiety. Try looking at others in the forehead. To them it tends to look the same, and you won't have to deal with the stress of noticing someone's eye contact and gestures.
  • Drink Water Keeping your throat hydrated and clear will reduce any unwanted sounds that may make you self-conscious. It's not necessarily a cure for your anxiety, but it will keep you from adding any extra stress that may contribute to further anxiousness.

These are some of the most basic ways to ensure that your anxiety affects your speech patterns less. But until you cure your anxiety, you're still going to overthink and have to consciously control your voice and confidence.  


Anxiety is a distracting condition, making it hard to speak. During periods of intense anxiety, adrenaline can also cause a shaky voice and panic attacks can take away the brain’s energy to talk – leading to slurs and stutters. Identifying the type of speech problem can help, but ultimately it is an anxiety issue that will need to be addressed with a long-term strategy. 

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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.

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