Relationship between anxiety and stuttering
Anxiety is frequently seen as a precipitating factor in the development of stuttering. In other words, anxiety is believed to cause or worsen stuttering symptoms. The relationship between anxiety and stuttering is well-known. Multiple studies have shown that speaking in front of an audience, making phone calls, and meeting new people are among the most anxiety-provoking situations for people who stutter. Individuals who stutter can experience intense anxiety related to these activities and will often go to great lengths to avoid them. For some individuals, this avoidance behavior may interfere with professional or social functioning.
The relationship between anxiety and stuttering is complex, however, and it is not yet well understood which came first – did the individual start to stutter because they were anxious? Or did their stuttering lead them to feel anxious?
When you’re stressed or anxious, certain chemicals are released by your body. These chemicals make your heart beat faster and your breathing speed up. They can also stiffen the muscles in your face, arms, and legs. For some people who stutter, this means that their stuttering gets worse when they are nervous or under stress.
Sometimes people who stutter have negative feelings about their speech, fear negative reactions from other people, or feel worried about speaking in certain situations. These negative emotions are often referred to as communication apprehension, and they can be a source of anxiety for people who stutter. Communication apprehension may lead to avoidance or anxiety-provoking situations where you need to speak.
Anxiety can also increase the frequency of stutters when speaking. Some evidence suggests that anxiety does not cause stuttering during spontaneous speech but increases it. Similar findings have been found for tasks involving reading aloud or saying tongue twisters
There are many different factors that contribute to stuttering, such as genetics and neurophysiology. So far, research is unable to pinpoint exactly what causes stuttering.
One thing we do know is that there are several ways a person can be taught to manage their anxiety related to speaking situations. Some of these strategies include:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Muscle relaxation training
- Cognitive restructuring
- Participation in self-help groups
If you experience anxiety, you may notice that your stutter gets worse. For many people who stutter, anxiety is one of the most prominent triggers of their stutter. Sometimes, the very anticipation of having to speak can increase anxiety levels and may cause or worsen a stutter.
If you have anxiety, it’s likely that you also experience:
- increased heart rate and tightness in your chest
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- difficulty breathing
- racing thoughts
- shaking or trembling
The best way to overcome anxiety and stuttering is to seek therapy. Therapy is the best way to learn how to cope with anxiety and stuttering, as there are many different techniques that can be learned on how to deal with both conditions. If you experience stuttering, it may be beneficial to seek out a therapist who specializes in stuttering.
Such speech therapy is a treatment approach that helps patients lessen their tension while speaking, teach them skills that help them speak more smoothly and increase their self-confidence in speaking situations. Anxiety and stress can also be treated through other types of therapy. A cognitive behavioral therapist will help you to get rid of the anxious thoughts and replace them with positive ways of thinking.
Everyone has a story, everyone has a journey, and everyone has been through a struggle. There is no shame in seeking help. We are here to accompany you on your journey of healing. Reach out to us if you’re seeking therapy or coaching and would like to know more about what we do.