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Anxiety and Difficulty Speaking

Daniel Sher, MA, Clin Psychology
Anxiety and Difficulty Speaking

Anxiety is a type of disorder that prevents you from living your life the way you would like to. One of the symptoms of anxiety is a difficulty with speaking normally. Due to the physical and psychological impact of anxiety, this disorder can make it incredibly difficult for you to get your words out in a manner which is both comfortable and coherent. Read on to learn more.

This difficulty with speaking normally can also create its own problems - problems that may increase your anxiety in the future. We'll explore why these speaking difficulties occur and how you can effectively overcome them.

What it's Like to Have Trouble Speaking

Difficulty speaking is both a psychological problem, where you’re fearful about speaking in social situations; and a physical problem, where it feels like your mouth can't move correctly or like your tongue is too big. These symptoms occur with various types of anxiety. 

The best way to understand this phenomenon is by going over possible reasons that you may have trouble speaking. These include:

These are just a few of many possible examples to explain how anxiety can make it that much more difficult to speak naturally. 

Reinforcing the Anxiety

Unfortunately, difficulty speaking can reinforce the anxiety that stops you from speaking in the first place. For example, if you have social anxiety disorder, you may find that your anxiety stops you from taking up the challenge of speaking in public. 

By avoiding challenging your anxiety, you make your fear of it stronger. This is known as “negative reinforcement”. If you had got up there and spoken, you could have proved to yourself that you were able to do it. This may have reduced your anxiety the next time around. But because you avoided speaking up at all, this reinforced the anxiety that you initially had, also making it more likely that you will turn down the challenge the next time.

Similarly, if you feel like your muscles are not cooperating with you or you can't physically get the words out, it can feel really disturbing as though something is wrong with your muscles or your brain. Nothing is wrong of course - that anxiety is simply contributing to this feeling - but it can feel as though something must be terribly wrong for you to suffer through these problems.

How to Stop Difficulty Speaking From Anxiety

Your ability to feel comfortable speaking is an important part of living a normal life. You don't want to live inside your head, and you certainly don't want to be suffering from so much anxiety that you can't interact with others.

Physical anxiety symptoms are difficult to cure. The only successful way to prevent them is to reduce your anxiety so that it no longer feels overwhelming. The key is to distract your mind so that you don't focus too heavily on the way your body feels so that your automatic processes (like talking) can remain automatic. The more you think about the way they feel, the more you will continue to experience trouble with your mouth movements.

When your own anxiety is stopping you from speaking in front of others, there are several strategies that you can try:

These are just a few tips and techniques that can help you overcome difficulties with speaking. Of course, when your trouble talking in public is caused by your anxiety, the solution is going to be curing your anxiety, otherwise, you'll continue to run the risk of it happening again.

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