Anxiety Controls my Mouth

I’m not sure which to blame this on, GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) or the social anxiety, but one of those has caused me some problems! This has been going on for as long as I can remember. Anxiety decides to abuse its’ power and control my mouth. What do I mean by that, you might be asking? Or maybe you’re not, but still. I have this tendency to have the urge to say something, and yet my mouth stays clamped shut and my vocal chords go into hiding.

I think if one were to look back at my life, this may even track back to my preschool days. I am a September birthday, and with certain months the parent can choose to either send the student in “early” or keep them and have them start “late” (in terms of what ages they turn in what grades). I ended up in preschool for two years as to start a bit later, being the older of the kids in the grade; but my mom has told me before that my first year of preschool, I was a “parallel player.” I’d sit next to the other kids, play exactly what they were playing, but I wouldn’t talk to them. I could tell you exactly what happened, who said what, who did what; but no direct interaction.

The biggest example that I can remember is during my “regular” school days. Pretty much any school years first and up. I should start with the fact that I am a closeted math geek. I’m not sure why, but people tend to be a bit surprised by this fact. In 7th grade, I had one of the best teachers I ever had, and he taught math. He, for me, is what made math fun. It stopped being about just a + b = c and became “hey, let’s hang out and learn some math!” if that makes sense. It was still about the facts, of course, but became a more fun environment. They couldn’t have picked a better follow-up to the 7th grade math teacher than the 8th grade one. They fit perfectly together, one following the other. With that, I started to fall completely head over heels for math. It made sense, I was good at it, and I loved it. What could be better?

Well, it turns out that my mouth and vocal chords had other ideas in mind. When asked to call out an answer, or even raise a hand to give one, my voice would magically vanish and my mouth would forget how to work. You could ask me what 2+2 was and I’d still stare for a few seconds before my voice felt “forced” to give an answer. This was my most confident subject, the one I knew I was almost always correct in; and yet… my mouth refused to cooperate! It wasn’t just math, either. It was any and every subject. First president? Nothing, define simile? Nope, can’t. What is Avogadro’s Constant? Sorry. (Why I still have this number in my head after over 10 years? I don’t know.)

Follow up into adult life: now if I see someone I know in passing, or if a conversation is going on with my friends or colleagues, and someone asks a question or makes a statement that I have something to answer or add, I just sit quietly and tend not to say anything. In my head, however, I am speaking. This happens pretty frequently at my job, actually. When someone asks who someone’s teacher is, or what is so-and-so’s last name… I usually have an answer, but sometimes cannot get my vocal chords to help me answer.

The more comfortable I am in a situation and with everyone around me, the more likely I am to answer, but still even sometimes in the most comfortable of situations, occasionally my voice will fail and my mouth will stay clamped shut.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has this happen. Anyone else? Have you found something to combat your lack of a voice?

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24 thoughts on “Anxiety Controls my Mouth

  1. I can so relate to this! Since early childhood and into adulthood. I find it as a fear of accidentally saying something stupid or making a fool of myself. It seems to stem from my early insecurities and not wanting to have all the attention focused on me.


  2. Yup. It was made worse for a while by a few people who would constantly have something to say about what I had to say. People can be bullies and I used to be an easy target.


  3. I definitely experienced this in school and now as a working adult. In class I would almost never raise my hand even if participation was required to get a good grade (except in 8th grade science). I have always been afraid of being wrong, saying the wrong thing or sounding stupid. I find it very difficult to speak up in a meeting but yesterday I found the courage to give my opinion! My idea was shot down but I still spoke which is a big accomplishment for me.


  4. You could’ve been describing my entire school experience as well! (including being older than all of my classmates…I have an October birthday..) In fact, my first two years of therapy were spent in silence. I thought I was speaking and answering questions, but many times, my body and mouth wouldn’t let me talk. I still fall into that cycle of silence sometimes, but will force myself to speak up before I get a chance to register that I’m anxious.


  5. Thank you for your story. I answer a question or say something a hundred times in my head while nothing comes out of my mouth. For me, it stems from my lack of self-worth which stems from childhood abuse – if I speak, I’ll be seen which leads to trouble. My body continues to protect me when it no longer has to. Thanks again – it’s heartening to know I’m not alone.


  6. I suffer with anxiety and funnily enough this happened to me at my job today. I had an answer to a question that was asked but I couldn’t seem to get my words out. There was 10-11 other people present who I am not too familiar with and I feared saying something stupid or being ignored. I managed to force it out eventually though after sitting and contemplating it for a couple of minutes.


  7. Strangely school never was a problem except for math where I felt utterly worthless thanks to my teacher but it happens to me in almost any social setting with other students or Co workers or strangers. Even calling someone needs so much courage and preparation bc I need to have the words ready and go through every possible conversation I could have and how to react before I find the courage to call


  8. Selective mutism! Sounds like a freeze response… I used to get it all the time when in potential conflict (arguements with boyfriends etc) and was then diagnosed with severe anxiety and Aspergers as an adult. Still do occassionally get stuck for words.


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