A dry mouth can happen for a whole variety of reasons and whilst it might not be the most worrying symptom of anxiety, it can be pretty annoying.
As with many physical symptoms of anxiety, dry mouth is normally accompanied by other symptoms. These are often triggered by a release of the stress hormone cortisol or the chemical adrenaline in the caveman part of our brain. This is the survival-driven part of our brain that our newer, rational cortex grew on top of. Its primary concern is keeping us alive, so when our brain perceives a threat, it releases these stress chemicals and activates a response called the fight, flight or freeze response. This puts our body on high alert, and as a result, our body prepares to either fight, flight or freeze.
Why Does Anxiety Cause Dry Mouth?
There’s a few reasons for this, first of all when our body goes into fight, flight or freeze mode, your body redirects blood, oxygen and water to where it’s most needed. If you’re running away or fighting someone, ensuring the roof of your mouth is moist is probably not a survival priority.
The next reason could be a result of breathing heavily through the mouth. When our brain perceives a threat and our body goes into survival mode, our muscles tense and our breathing quickens as if we’re about to race or strike out. If we’re breathing in this way, or hyperventilating for long periods of time, which happens during anxiety attacks, our mouth is naturally going to feel particularly dry.
Dry mouth might also be caused by dehydration or as a side effect of any medication you might be on, so you might want to take these into consideration.
How Can I Stop This Symptom?
How to stop dry mouth depends on which of the reasons above apply, but drinking water can help us lubricate the mouth and keep our mind at bay. It’s also been suggested that chewing gum produces excess saliva, so this might be an option for you.
Of course, this helps us to stop the symptoms in action, but in order to prevent the symptoms occurring, you need to manage or build strategies to tackle your anxiety. There are several options available including CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), mindfulness, medication and group therapy. If you’re unsure, please contact your GP for more information.