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Slurred Speech From Anxiety: Causes and Treatments

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10th, 2020

Slurred Speech From Anxiety: Causes and Treatments

Many anxiety symptoms can make a person feel like there is something wrong with their brain. Our brains are arguably the most important part of our bodies, and deep down many people with anxiety have a fear that their brain may fail them. They worry that something is wrong with their brain, like a tumor or multiple sclerosis, and that worry causes them even more anxiety.

Slurred speech is an example of an anxiety symptom that can be incredibly frightening. But it's common with those suffering from anxiety attacks, and in most cases it says nothing about the health of your brain.

Causes of Anxiety Slurred Speech

Slurred speech, also known as dysarthria, is when a person’s words become jumbled together and may be difficult to understand. This is caused by the muscles that are used to create speech not functioning properly or to their best ability.

Slurred speech without alcohol is linked to a variety of diagnoses that are cause for concern, including:

  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Brain Tumors
  • Lyme Disease
  • Head Injury
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Stroke

If you think there's any chance that you may suffer from these or any related conditions, see a doctor. You should never leave your brain's health up to chance, because your brain is simply too important to take those types of risks.

However, it should be noted that in most cases where slurred speech is caused by the diagnoses above, the slurred speech is long lasting. It may fade in and out over the course of a lifespan, but rarely a few hours or less. It's possible, which is why this isn't a risk you should take to chance, but it's uncommon.

For some people, anxiety can cause slurred speech, as well as issues that resemble slurred speech. All of the following are potential links between stress/anxiety and slurring of words:

  • Overactive Thoughts One of the key reasons that some people slur their words is because anxiety makes it hard to focus. Stress can affect recall and mental accuracy, and extreme anxiety can cause you to be so far "in your head" that it is extremely difficult to get words out. In a way, anxiety makes your brain work too hard, and when it does some of the other things your brain needs to do don't work as well - like speaking.
  • Muscle Tension Anxiety also causes significant muscle tension. Muscle tension can make it harder to move mouth muscles, which of course is the main cause of slurred speech in most other conditions.
  • Over-Awareness An interesting problem with anxiety is the way it makes you over-aware of what would otherwise be subconscious/automatic behaviors. It's seen in other areas of life as well - for example, anxiety can make it harder for some people to walk because they're more aware of the movements in their legs. It can affect the mouth and speech as well. Speech is an automatic movement, and during intense anxiety your mouth movements may be controlled by you rather than your subconscious mind, making them much harder to do.
  • Anxiety Medications Slurred speech is the side effect of many different anxiety medications. Most often it's because these medications also act as muscle relaxants and make it harder to move the muscles in your mouth and face.
  • Tiredness, Caffeine, and More Several fairly normal issues can also affect speech. For example, those that are very tired may be more prone to slurred speech because their brain is not functioning as well as normal. Tiredness (as well as a lack of caffeine for those with caffeine addiction and other issues that may affect alertness) slows the brain down to the point where muscles may work less effectively.

These are just some of the reasons that anxiety may be responsible for slurred speech. It should also be noted that some slurred speech once in a while is normal even in those without anxiety. But when you have anxiety, it's easy to feel as though your problems speaking mean "something more" than what someone without anxiety would think.

Slurred Speech From Anxiety Isn't Dangerous

While it's important to talk with your doctor about the cause of your slurred speech, slurred speech caused by anxiety is not dangerous. It's not a sign that you have something else coming, or that your brain will somehow be inefficient for handling life tasks in the future.

There isn't a specific treatment for slurred speech because slurred speech is simply a response to anxiety. One thing you should do, however, is avoid forcing the words out. If your speech is slurring, forcing yourself to speak is going to add more stress. The more you try to force out words that aren't coming out naturally, the more you'll find that the words become more troubling as your brain becomes more stressed as a result.

The best course of action is to learn how to cope with anxiety and learn to properly manage it.

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!

Ask Doctor a Question

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.

Ask Doctor a Question

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