Sensations

Anxiety Could Explain the Bad Taste in Your Mouth

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10th, 2020

Anxiety Could Explain the Bad Taste in Your Mouth

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 potentially distressing or irritating.

The good news is that a 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 simple things you can do to reduce 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 we know that anxiety can make the symptoms worse.

Talking to your doctor is always a good idea if you're nervous about your health. You may want to visit a dentist as well, just for a check-up, especially if you haven’t been recently.

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 may be linked to any or all of the following (or something else that’s 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 [1].
  • 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 panic 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 it wasn’t really bothering you or you weren’t even aware of it. During a panic attack, you may be more sensitive to things like taste, making you become more conscious and concerned about 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 that may be altered by anxiety. It's also possible that you're creating more mucus, which can have an unpleasant flavor. Salivary changes may create a bad taste as well, and it's possible for stress to allow bad smelling bacteria to flourish [2]. 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 in your mouth is easy. 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, however, the long term and preventative solution is to make sure you're addressing your underlying anxiety - which is really the root of the problem.

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!

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Question:

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

– Anonymous patient

Answer:

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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