Sensations

How Anxiety Can Affect Your Taste

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10th, 2020

How Anxiety Can Affect Your Taste

The effects of anxiety can sometimes be incredibly strange. One example that surprises people is that anxiety may result in an altered sense of taste. Let’s explore this further.

Taste Symptoms Rarely Occur in Isolation

Altered taste from anxiety can occur at strange moments - even at times that you do not think you're suffering from anxiety. However, often you’ll notice that you are experiencing other anxiety symptoms at the same time as well.

Altered taste is something of a strange symptom because there is not a lot of research evidence into how it occurs or why. Taste may be altered in several ways:

  • You may have a metallic taste in your mouth.
  • You may have an acidic taste in your mouth, or a regurgitation taste.
  • You may feel as though the general tastes in your mouth have changed.

There are many, many different reasons that your taste may be altered.. Here are some examples:

  • Taste Buds Changing During Stress First, the biggest issue is that it does appear taste buds can be affected when you’re stressed. Research by Parker and colleagues shows that there are certain hormone receptors in our taste buds that get activated during stress. It's not entirely clear why, but stress seems to alter the perception of taste.
  • Acid Reflux Anxiety can exacerbate acid reflux symptoms. This can bring your stomach acids into your throat, which often you can taste. You can sometimes taste your acid reflux even if it never reaches your tongue. Acid reflux is not necessarily dangerous, but it is definitely uncomfortable.
  • Breathing Through Your Mouth A very simple reason you may have taste changes is because breathing through your mouth also appears more common with anxiety, and this can lead to different tastes on your tongue. Mouth breathing can affect salivary glands and bacteria, possibly changing how your tongue and mouth feel.
  • General Sensitivity Anxiety can also make you much more sensitive to the way you experience taste. This type of sensitivity can make normal changes in your taste - for example, from bleeding gums, from bacteria, from something you ate, etc. - taste stronger than if you didn't have anxiety. Everyone has bad tastes in their mouth occasionally, but anxiety makes a person more likely to notice these tastes and amplify them to the point where they feel distressed.

These are just some of the issues that can lead to taste changes from anxiety. Some medicines can cause metallic tastes, some anxiety conditions can exacerbate oral health issues, and people with panic attacks may experience taste changes as a result of adrenaline or hyperventilation.

How to Control Taste Symptoms

Taste issues are not generally something that one can control directly, other than simply putting something in your mouth that tastes good. Some people find that chewing gum helps them with stress, and the flavors of gum can often drown out any of the negative tastes that you have.

The only true way to stop the taste problems from anxiety is to address your anxiety directly, and ensure that you are doing what it takes to get appropriate treatment.

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.

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