Anxiety can cause a lot of unusual symptoms. But one of the strangest is the way that anxiety affects taste. Anxiety may genuinely cause a bad taste in your mouth, as though you've eaten something gross. It's one of the weirder symptoms of anxiety and while it's not dangerous, it is very irritating.
The good news is that bad taste from anxiety is easy to understand, and generally fairly easy to reduce. In this article, we'll look at the most likely causes of bad taste, and the quick things you can do to reduce it.
Bad Taste = Anxiety?
Most people find it hard to believe that anxiety can affect your taste buds, but anxiety really does make a big difference for how your mouth adjusts to flavors. Bad taste is almost never the only anxiety symptom, however. So take my free 7 minute anxiety test to see what else is a symptom of your anxiety and what you can do to cure it.
Diseases That Anxiety Makes Worse
It should be noted that in some cases, the bad taste in your mouth may be the result of a disease - like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) - that is simply worse during periods of high anxiety. GERD isn't necessarily dangerous, but it is a disorder that is unrelated to anxiety, and anxiety is simply known to make it worse.
Talking to your doctor is always a good idea if you're nervous. You may want to visit a dentist as well. You should also take my anxiety test if you haven't yet, to learn more about your own anxiety symptoms.
Causes of Bad Taste From Anxiety
Bad taste in one's mouth seems like such an unusual anxiety symptom. That's because it's difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. It definitely affects many people with anxiety, but the reason for the bad taste many be any or all of the following (or even something not on the list):
- Taste Changes The most likely reason is that stress causes your taste buds to change. How they change differs from person to person, but there is evidence that under periods of intense stress, a person's sense of taste is altered with it.
- Mouth Breathing Anxiety also leads to rapid breathing - usually through the mouth. This type of rapid breathing may cause your tongue to dry up and ultimately taste a bit drier and less pleasant, which could be the cause of the unusual taste.
- Over-thinking Similarly, when you have severe anxiety - especially anxiety attacks - it's not uncommon to be more sensitive to issues that are already pleasant. For example, you may have already had a bad taste in your mouth, but you didn't necessarily know it. During a panic attack, you may be more sensitive to things like taste, making you become more aware of the bad taste that was already there.
It's also possible there are other issues at play here as well. We mentioned GERD, earlier, and acid reflux can create a bad taste and is altered by anxiety. It's also possible that you're creating more mucus, which can have a poor flavor. Salivary changes may create a bad taste as well, and it's possible for stress to allow bad smelling bacteria to flourish. It's difficult to know the exact cause, and it's possible that it could be any or all of those issues.
How to Address the Bad Taste
The good news is that improving the taste of your mouth is easy. Taste is still taste. If you often find that you have a bad taste in your mouth during times of anxiety, then finding something that tastes better is the solution. See if there is a breath mint you like, or a tic tac (although avoid peppermint if you think you may have GERD). There may be some gum available or water you can drink. These will all reduce the bad taste.
Ultimately the long term solution is to make sure you're addressing your anxiety.
I've worked with thousands of people that have this bad taste in their mouths during periods of intense anxiety. I tell them all to start off with my free 7 minute anxiety test. It will look at your symptoms, compare them to the symptoms of others, allow you to cross check the severity of your anxiety, and give you recommendations for treatment.
So if you haven't yet, start the test here.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.