Social Anxiety and Voice


#1

Hi all,

This is a personal story / rant / question / post seeking help.

I have this sense that my social / general anxiety is deeply embodied within me, to the point that even if I start to think differently and genuinely feel better emotionally, the physical sensations and expressions of SA are still very much there. That physical side of SA is where I feel it most strongly. Particularly in my voice. While I can cope with it, it’s very frustrating and depressing for me and really hinders my progress, and sometimes I feel like it’s not something I could ever actually change.

For me, when I speak, the overall experience is like:

  • my throat feels constricted
  • I need to force words out
  • my voice doesn’t have clarity (especially in noisy environments - people
    basically can’t hear / understand me)
  • it doesn’t feel like it’s ‘me’. The feeling I have inside is not being expressed by my voice -
    nothing comes out the way I want it to.

This ‘overall experience’ described above is felt most strongly in high anxiety situations or physically difficult situations (like when I need to raise my voice), but it reflects the experience I generally have when I speak - whether with friends, strangers or just by myself.

On a good day, I’m aware of this feeling in every verbal exchange but enjoy the exchange and other things in life enough not to be too bothered by it. Other days, I have the sense of disappointment and frustration after every exchange, unhappy with how my speech came out and thinking about how I could sound different, and what I could do to change it.

This obsession is obviously very unhealthy but I really don’t know what I can do about it. I’ve felt this way for years.

Does anyone else experience something like this as part of their anxiety, and / or have any suggestions for overcoming it? I’m up to tape 4 in the series. Thanks for reading.


#2

Hi there,

This “feeling” you are talking about, that the social anxiety is “embodied within you” and is a “part” of you, is one of the biggest lies that ANTs can tell you, and you need to treat it that way.

That feelings simply comes up because of your past experiences with social anxiety, and the way your brain has been “conditioned” to believe it after a number of negative social experiences, whether it be related to your voice or whatever else.

It’s important to start to think rationally about all of this though, because as you will learn as you go through the series, our feelings are the biggest liars when they involve anxiety. We don’t every want to reference or measure our “feelings” of anxiety when in social situations, because if you’re always focused on how you feel, you’ll never get out of your head and just start doing what you need to get done.

Focus on what you DO, and on what steps you are making against social anxiety every day, rather than all the Feelings that social anxiety creates within you, which is a trap like quick sand.

The solution to your voice problem is similar, to focus externally on your environment and what you are doing, rather than on how your voice sounds / how others are perceiving it. You could also try recording your voice though, and getting used to it, and look into ways of using more breath when you speak, etc… there are some suggestions out there on how you can sound louder by using more breath in your diaphragm. But also realize that even if your voice seems hard to understand / quiet, that you can CHOOSE not to worry about this, and focus on moving against social anxiety for now anyways. And you can slowly look at ways you improve your voice as well.

I hope this helps!


#3

Hi ! as bad as this problem s***s, I was relieved to find there is actually someone out there with the similar problem as me. For me, it started three years ago when I got a total hang-up on my voice, overthinking it, and I could never find a comfortable way of speaking when interracting with other people. it led me to social anxiety, two years of speech therapy and eventually surgery to remove self inflicted knots on my vocal chords. And I am still struggling. Im afraid when I have to speak, and often I feel like I fail at social things, cause Just like you it feels tight, like I got a stone in my chest/throat, forcing every word out, and I don’t feel like «me» anymore. Like I am trapped in my own body. I don’t work atm, I go to councelling, but even that makes me nervous… cause I need to get the words out : p it’s hard for them to comprehend what this is, that speaking can actually be such a struggle. I have at this point, no idea in hell how to overcome this. I have tried everything, therapy, vocal coaching, breathing and meditation. and anxiety medication. Have you overcome it?? do you have any way of coping with this in your daily life? kindest thoughts to you from norway :snowflake:


#4

It’s very common that people with social anxiety have voice projection issues. I mean this in all ways that one can describe being too quiet, feeling (and thus realized) unable to speak loudly enough, getting choked off, self-censorhip / racing thoughts that lead to not being able to talk. I could go on with the examples covering both feelings about being too quiet and concerns about physically being unable to use/control one’s voice.

People in the groups here practice speaking up. Some may not focus on being too quiet, but need to practice speaking up to be more assertive, just to be heard. Others certainly talk of this as a physical issue - that they can’t physically speak louder, think that physically they can’t, think also that when they begin to speak louder that they must be screaming when in fact they’re still not speaking that loudly.

When anxiety leads to physical symptoms, or physical results, the tendency is often to disregard the anxiety, thoughts, and feelings that set up the symptom. We know we’re being irrational and worrying too much about it, but we also focus on the physical aspect of the symptom. Tightening, twitching, blushing, sweating, shaking, etc. The way we think and feel is setting us up for not just how we then think and feel, but also behave, act, do.

Behaviorally in the groups, people can and do become louder. They practice calming down, loosening up, and projecting their voices. And they do it. Even those with preconceptions that they can’t physically do it, learn that they can do it.

You likely have many solidified thoughts built up around this. Consider that you may not see the results that you hope to see if you do not also address and turn around those thoughts. Thus, breathing exercises alone wouldn’t change thoughts. Meditation wouldn’t, as in most cases it is not an active thought retraining exercise for people. Medication alone wouldn’t.

When I reviewed this post with Dr. Richards, he confirmed that he knows first hand the same feelings, and that many people in the groups deal with this in various degrees.

My response is intended for your consideration, based upon what we see and know to be the case here. It’s not intended to challenge or minimize your experience with this issue.