young woman at computer biting a pencil - vocal effects of stress and anxiety

How Stress & Anxiety Affect The Voice

In the world today, many people suffer from chronic stress and anxiety. This can lead to many health issues with some being more serious than others. One might ask if stress and anxiety affect the voice or vocal cords in any way? The answer is yes, they can cause many things to happen to your voice. Continue reading to learn more about the vocal effects of stress and anxiety.

Vocal Effects of Stress and Anxiety

What Is Stress?

Stress is how the body responds to a threat or an urgent situation. It is also known as a “fight-or-flight” response. One thing to note is that not all kinds of stress are bad for your health. In fact, in small doses, stress can help you work better and perform better when under pressure. However, If you are constantly in that state of emergency, your body, as well as your mind, can pay the price.

Stress can be caused by many factors, which are often referred to as stressors. Many times, people think that if something is a stressor, it is bad or negative. However positive things can also be stressors such as buying a home or receiving a promotion at work. Some of the top stressors include:

  • Death of a spouse
  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Job loss
  • Imprisonment
  • Retirement
  • Injury/illness
  • Death of a close family member

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is simply the body’s natural response to stress. The Mayo Clinic states that “Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life.” As with stress, this little bit of anxiety is fine and can motivate you to be productive. Some common signs and symptoms of anxiety are:

  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Tiredness/weakness
  • Difficulty controlling worry
  • Sleep trouble
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nervousness, restless, tenseness

In addition to knowing what some of the common signs and symptoms of anxiety are, it is important to know what can trigger it. Some common things that can trigger anxiety are:

  • Public speaking/performances
  • Social events
  • Not eating
  • Caffeine
  • Medication
  • Stress

As previously mentioned, a little bit of stress and anxiety can sometimes be beneficial in motivating you. However, many people in the world today suffer from anxiety disorders and chronic stress. This is when something your mental and physical health is negatively impacted by stress and anxiety for extended periods of time. This is when harmful things can happen to your voice.

How Stress and Anxiety Affect your Voice

The main way that stress and anxiety can affect your voice is through Muscle Tension Dysphonia (MTD). This is an imbalance in the coordination of the muscles and breathing patterns that are needed to create your voice. The University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Otolaryngology states that “Primary MTD can be associated with stress and anxiety.” This condition is caused because of tenseness in the muscles of the voice box as a result of stress. If this happens too often and for too long, it can lead to an “incoordination of the vocal control system.” What this means is that long periods of MTD can lead to your vocal cords and other aspects of your voice not working together in coordianation.

In addition to MTD, there are other ways that stress and anxiety can affect your voice. As previously mentioned, anxiety can be caused by public speaking or performance. If you have an anxiety attack, you may not be able to perform to your fullest or at all. This is called stage fright. Check out this article to learn our Tips to Overcome your Stage Fright.

Ways To Help Handle Stress & Anxiety

There are many ways that you can help yourself relieve some of the stress and anxiety in your life. In fact, it may be easier than you think. As previously mentioned, caffeine is something that can trigger anxiety in some people. If you have high caffeine intake, you may want to consider limiting your caffeine intake or going without it altogether, to see if your body responds positively. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (AADA) also advises that you get a good night’s sleep and eat balanced meals each day in order to help reduce stress and anxiety.

It may be best to find out certain stressors or anxiety triggers in your life and avoid them as best as you can, or even better, find a way to make them not a stressor or trigger anymore. Other things that you can do are exercising as putting physical stress on the body can help relieve mental stress. Spending time with close friends and family is important because they will be able to help you get through these difficult times. If you can, the AADA also recommends that you talk to a physician or therapist to receive professional help and advice.


When it comes to the vocal effects of stress and anxiety, there are many things to remember. Most importantly, it is to remember that not all kinds of stress and anxiety are bad. If you do struggle with chronic stress or some form of anxiety disorder please get help from a doctor and talk to someone trusted so they can help you too.