You’re in a meeting. Suddenly, when talking to your boss, your speech goes from normal to slurred in an instant. Or maybe you’re making plans with a friend, and your words start running together when choosing the date and time. It’s confusing. Stressful. Frustrating. What’s going on? Can Stress Cause Slurred Speech?
It might be anxiety. When under stress — whether you notice that stress on the surface or not — your brain and body just act differently. Your muscles might be more tense than normal. Your thoughts might be scattered, so the brain can have trouble focusing on the task at hand: speaking.
Let’s take a look at why anxiety can affect your speech, and what you can do about it. First, here’s how slurring can start in cases like these:
Tension in the mouth. As mentioned, anxiety can cause many muscle groups to tense up. That includes your mouth muscles, so you might notice it’s tougher to get words out clearly.
Hyperawareness. Under anxiety, even though the mind is racing, some people become over-aware of processes that usually come automatically. That includes breathing, walking…and yes, speaking. When you’re more focused on getting the words out, slurring might result.
Anxiety meds. If you already know you’re dealing with anxiety, you might be taking a prescription to help. Some medicines that target anxiety act as muscle relaxants, which can make your mouth and facial muscles more sluggish.
So what are some tactics that can help get speech back to normal?
Preparation. If you know you’re heading into an important conversation, visualize it going well. Think about a few talking points, so you won’t further be stressed by choosing topics on the spot.
Pacing. Try to speak slowly, whether giving a presentation or just having a casual chat. Rushed speech can lead to slurred speech, so give your brain — and your muscles — time to work for you.
Deep breathing. Nervousness can make people hold their breath. Give yourself a few minutes to prepare for your conversation, if possible, and take some deep breaths during that time.
Anxiety-related slurred speech is often a passing condition, which typically lasts up to a few hours (though it might just happen during one conversation). The impact is different for everyone.
In certain cases where the slurring problem lasts longer — and alcohol isn’t involved — there might be an underlying health condition to address. These conditions vary, so anytime slurred speech is bothering you, you should check with a doc to get personalized advice.
If slurred speech is getting in the way of your daily interactions, then give us a call. Our team offers a wide range of speech therapy and communication training, and we’d be happy to help find the best fix for you.
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