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Anxiety and Difficulty Speaking

Anxiety is the type of disorder that prevents you from living your life the way you're supposed to. One of the symptoms that that can cause is difficulty speaking. Anxiety can be muting, and make it almost impossible for you to talk for both physical and mental reasons.

This type of speaking difficulty can also create its own problems - problems that may increase your anxiety in the future. We'll explore why difficulty speaking occurs and how you can effectively overcome it.

Anxiety Making it Hard to Speak?

Getting the words out is certainly harder when you have anxiety, and one anxiety disorder - social phobia - is characterized by trouble talking in front of others. Find out what type of anxiety you have, figure out your anxiety score, and compare your anxiety to others with our free 7 minute anxiety test.

Start the test here.

What it's Like to Have Trouble Speaking

Difficulty speaking is both a mental problem - where you can't get yourself to talk in public - 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. Learn more by taking my free 7 minute anxiety test now.

The best way to understand this is to go over the reasons that you may have trouble speaking. These include:

  • Fear of Being Judged The fear of being judged is an example of difficulty speaking that represents a mental issue, and it's extremely common in social phobia (but it affects nearly everyone with anxiety in some way). Many people experience this deadly fear of being judged by others, and they're afraid that if they talk they'll have people look down on them. The fear of the response in general may also be an example of this type of mindset.
  • Overthinking Some people have difficulty speaking because they're thinking too much about way to say, what they're feeling, etc. The more they think about it, the more they have hard time putting the words into sentences and sharing them out loud. Often they eventually lose track of the conversation and suddenly the moment has passed and they feel as though they simply can't speak anymore.
  • Mouth Movements Anxiety can affect your physical movements as well. They can make it feel harder for you to move the muscles in your face. This may not sound like an anxiety issue, but anxiety can cause some of the movements that you used to be natural to become unnatural, and some of the automatic movements to become more manual. If you think so much about each muscle movement, eventually those movements will become harder and less natural.

So these are a few examples of the ways that anxiety can lead to difficulty speaking. There are many more as well, because there are many ways people talk themselves out of speaking in public or find that their mind is cooperating with them.

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 phobia, you may find that your anxiety talks you out of speaking in public. That makes you more anxious as you sit there and feel awkward. When/if you do speak, you'll often feel a flood of anxiety as a result, and that will make you more nervous the next time you're in a situation when you need to speak.

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. 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. But there is a way to make it easier to speak. 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 movements 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 simply causing you to have problems wanting to speak in front of others, there are several strategies that you can try:

  • Embarrass Yourself on Purpose If possible, you need to reduce the issues that are causing you fear. One thing to consider is mildly embarrassing yourself on purpose. Go to a remote location and stand around in an embarrassing outfit, or do something embarrassing like ask people for their name. Over time you'll get used to the embarrassment and you won't fear it as much, which should make it easier for you to talk.
  • Get Closer to Your Friends Work with your closest friends on getting comfortable talking and start to figure out ways to get closer to them in the process. Close friendships help a great deal with confidence, and the more you can adjust to make closer friends with people and practice talking with them, the easier a time you'll have talking with others.
  • Exercise Exercise may not seem like it relates to speaking, but it can actually have some fairly significant effects. When you exercise, your body releases neurotransmitters that improve mood and make it easier to feel comfortable talking. Exercise also seems to improve self-confidence, which can also have a fairly powerful effect on your ability to meet with and bond with others. Start exercising today, and you may find that speaking becomes much easier.

These are just a few examples of tips and techniques that can help you overcome difficulty 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.

Take my free 7 minute anxiety test to find out more about what you can do to reduce your anxiety. I've worked with many people that have struggled greatly with their confidence and ability to speak with others, and I highly recommend it as a starting point to find out how to be free of anxiety in the future.

Start the test here, now.

Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.

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