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Anxiety Speech Problems: Trouble Concentrating and Swallowing While Speaking

Victoria LeBlanc, MS, LCPC
Anxiety Speech Problems: Trouble Concentrating and Swallowing While Speaking

Speaking in a public setting, whether to a large group or simply to another person, can be a difficult, and even embarrassing, task when anxiety is involved. Many people with anxiety disorders experience speech problems including difficulty concentrating and feeling the need to swallow while they are speaking. These types of speaking problems can cause you to avoid speaking entirely, or to panic whenever you do speak.

If you are suffering from these symptoms of anxiety it can help to know exactly what is happening in your body when you experience these speech problems as well as what you can do to prevent them.

How Anxiety Can Make It Hard To Concentrate

Anxiety is a mentally and physically overwhelming condition. Your mind (and your brain) can only focus on a certain number of things at any given time. When you have anxiety, it takes up much of that space, making it considerably harder for you to concentrate on the tasks at hand. Indeed, not only does it take over your thoughts, but there is a great deal of evidence that anxiety can actually shut some parts of your brain down temporarily because it can't handle all of the work.

When you really need to concentrate, anxiety is right there to get in the way. Whether it is preventing you from applying your mind to a problem, crowding your mind with other problems, or refusing to let you rationalize your thoughts, anxiety can cause real difficulties when you are trying to speak well and make a good impression on others (for example, at a job interview, meeting someone you are attracted to, or making a presentation in front of a group). Speaking can involve unrealistic anxieties about the negative ways people may perceive you or irrational worries about your body malfunctioning while you speak. Additionally, having a speech impediment can make it even more difficult to speak in public. 

Here are some of the effects that anxiety has which may stop you from concentrating when speaking:

These experiences can lead to you doubt yourself, lose self esteem, and even increase your anxiety. 

Swallowing While Speaking

Swallowing, like many bodily functions we never or rarely think about, becomes strange and challenging the moment we do focus on it. Overthinking simple physical acts such as swallowing, which are meant to happen unconsciously, may lead to hysterical reactions and socially inappropriate physical responses in attempting to compensate for the imagined problem.

Symptoms of this problem can include:

Being unable to concentrate can be mentally and socially uncomfortable, but difficulty swallowing can lead to physical consequences that can be even more unpleasant. Overcoming these barriers is crucial for people suffering from them to be able to live a normal and productive life. The list below will give you an idea of the types of mental exercises you can try in order to overcome them.

How to Defeat Your Public Speaking Anxiety Symptoms

The problem with anxiety is that it blows your fear of speaking and being judged out of proportion and makes you worry about things that just aren't realistic. You won't be ostracized for life if you stutter a little. You won't die from swallowing strangely. You won't lose friends simply because you lost your place in the conversation, and your life won't be over if you ever did lose a friend.

The fact is, most people get nervous when they have to speak publicly, and will usually be understanding of other people who feel the same way. Difficulty concentrating is a common experience for those who struggle with public speaking. And while difficulty swallowing may be less common, it is not something that should keep you from publicly speaking. 

Here are some ways to calm your public speaking anxiety so that it stops getting in your way when you need to make yourself heard:

Getting stuck on anxious thoughts and physical symptoms does not have to keep you from doing the important things in life that require you to speak with confidence and ease. Now that you are more informed about your body and have some strategies to cope with your speech anxieties, it is time to try them out and start making some positive impressions.

It is important to note that anxiety about public speaking often goes hand in hand with having other anxieties. The only way to truly cope with a fear of public speaking is to address your anxiety as a whole. While these strategies will help reduce your anxiety about public speaking, learning to manage your general anxiety is something that will take time and a commitment to treatment.

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