When we experience slurred speaking or trouble moving our mouth, it can be understandably worrying. After all, there are many serious neurological conditions that have this as a key symptom.
If you are concerned about repeated bouts of slurred speech, it’s always best to check with your doctor and if this is accompanied by one side of your face dropping and your arms weakening please call an ambulance as this could be a stroke.
This being said, slurred speech has also been linked to anxiety and anxiety attacks. As with a lot of physical symptoms of anxiety, the triggers lie within our caveman 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. The stress hormone cortisol or the chemical adrenaline are released and this puts our body on high alert, and as a result, our body prepares to either fight, flight or freeze.
Why Can Anxiety Cause Slurred Speech?
There are a few reasons why anxiety can cause slurred speech the first being that when we go into fight, flight or freeze mode, our brain shuts down a lot of the processes that we don’t need for imminent survival. Speech is considered one of these, so that’s why it can be difficult to articulate when we’re having a panic attack. Also, as our heart rate increases, our body recirculates the blood to the larger muscles so that we can fight or flee, taking blood and oxygen away from places like the face and jaw in order to do so.
Another reason is hyperstimulation. When our stress response is activated, the brain releases extra adrenaline and cortisol into our system to heighten our awareness and responses. This release of hormones and chemicals can make us feel jittery and shaky due to the extra energy, as a result, it can be difficult to control the movement of our mouth and jaw. Think about it like when you’re excited and full of energy and you have trouble relaying information as to why you’re excited, you’re tripping over your words, like you can’t move your mouth fast enough – this is what hyperstimulation is like.
How Can I Stop This Symptom?
As this symptom stems from our fight, flight or freeze response and accompanying heightened central nervous system, the main thing that we can do to combat it is to focus on our breathing and keep moving. This should calm our central nervous system, distract our mind from the perceived threat, and get blood and oxygen recirculating back to where they should be.
Of course, in order to prevent the symptoms of anxiety occurring in the first place, 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.