Some of the physical symptoms of anxiety are considered serious irritants. They may not be debilitating or lead to concerns about your overall health - sometimes the symptoms are simply annoying, and symptoms that you wish you didn't have to deal with so often.
Dry mouth is an example of this type of symptom. As the name implies, dry mouth is when your mouth simply feels dry, and millions of people suffering from anxiety deal with dry mouth every day.
Causes of Anxiety-Related Dry Mouth
Understanding dry mouth from anxiety is difficult when you look at the symptom on its own.
Generally, there are several issues that lead to this dry mouth feeling from anxiety, and any or all of them may relate to your dry mouth. These include:
- Mouth Breathing Air has a tendency to dry out the mouth, and those with anxiety are more prone to mouth breathing. Mouth breathing from anxiety is more common during severe anxiety episodes, like those that occur during an anxiety attack. Mouth breathing can be irritating to the saliva, and may dry out your tongue in a way that feels like dry mouth is occurring.
- Acid Backup Those that already have acid reflux problems may also be more prone to dry mouth. This is because during periods of intense anxiety and stress, the body is more prone to acid reflux symptoms, and acid can affect the salivary glands and lead to less saliva and the feeling of a dry mouth. It may also lead to a sticky feeling and bad taste, both of which are considered dry mouth related.
- Medications The leading cause of dry mouth with anxiety is not the anxiety itself. Rather, it is the medications that you use to treat it. Many anxiety medications, including Xanax, Valium, and Lorazepam, all have dry mouth as a common symptom.
- Fluid Changes In some cases, the issue may be with the way your body moves around fluid when you're experiencing severe anxiety. When your fight or fight system is activated, your body make take fluids - like saliva and water - and move them to the areas they feel need them more. That may dry out your mouth as well.
- Dehydration Of course, some dry mouth may genuinely be because you have a dry mouth. Those that aren't drinking enough water are more prone to severe anxiety symptoms.
Beyond that, those with anxiety are more likely to notice unusual physical sensations, meaning that if you have anxiety you're more likely to notice that your mouth feels dry then when you don't.
Dry mouth may sometimes too subjective to provide a definitive cause for, but there are many potential reasons that anxiety may lead to dry mouth. It's even possible for someone to not have a dry mouth in any way, but to be so aware of the way they feel that they believe they do. This is a common problem for those with panic attacks.
How to Stop the Sensation of a Dry Mouth
The difficulty in dealing with dry mouth depends primarily on the cause. Dry mouth caused by medication may reqiure a different dose, a different medication, or a different type of medication that can be provided by your doctor or dentist. There are both prescription and non-prescription treatments and washes that increase salivary production.
If you are not currently taking any medication and doctors have ruled out any other causes of dry mouth, it’s possible that anxiety is solely to blame. In that case, first simply try drinking water and chewing gum - two small behaviors that moisten the mouth. Although this may not “treat” all anxiety related dry mouth, some people find that the increase in saliva and cool feeling of water against the tongue can be mentally refreshing.
If the cause of your dry mouth appears to be anxiety, and is not related to the medications you are taking to cure it, then the next step is to work on anxiety reduction strategies. For example:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - A trained psychologist can assist with anxiety management. Therapy will help you get a diagnosis and cope with some of the stressful thoughts associated with both anxiety and the perception of dry mouth.
- Breathing Exercises - Some breathing exercises can be effective at both reducing anxiety and teaching you how to breathe through your nose more often. Try deep breathing, a process that we describe here.
- Self Help - Self-help techniques can be effective, especially if they are combined with lifestyle changes and therapy.
Although medications can also be effective, those that struggle with anxiety related dry mouth will want to talk about their distress with their doctor, to ensure that anything you take for your anxiety won’t affect your symptoms.
If you are currently taking a medication that continues to cause dry mouth, consider also combining it with therapy and other long-term treatment strategies. Perhaps with the right anxiety management technique, you can eventually find yourself off of the medication and thus no longer experiencing dry mouth.
Anxiety is a manageable condition. Those feeling as though their anxiety-related dry mouth - or their overall anxiety - is too overwhelming should continue to seek out treatments until they find one that works, because once you find that one strategy you can eventually control the severity of your anxiety.