Does Stress Cause Throat Tightness? Your Voice and Emotions Explained

You are about to say something in front of a group of people. You know exactly what to say but your voice does not want to come out and you choke on your own words. You are thinking: What’s happening? Why is this happening? Keep on reading to find out.

Vagus Nerve

Did you know that the vagus nerve, or so called wandering nerve, is the longest cranial nerve? It goes from your brain through the neck, where your voice box is located, through the chest, where your lungs are, to your belly and has the widest distribution in the body. 

Why am I telling you about this longest nerve? Because that’s the culprit of the frog in your throat that you feel when stressed or worried. Blame it on the vagus nerve!

Does Stress Cause Throat Tightness?

The answer is yes: emotional stress, anxiety, or even simple everyday worrisome thoughts can definitely affect our voice. And stress does not need to be a huge adverse event in your life, like losing a loved one, getting sick or divorced. Stress can be caused by happy life events like moving, having a baby or getting married. Or stress can come in small doses of life and work pressures.

Often, this unrecognized stress can start the ball rolling and can turn into physical symptoms, like troubles with voice. And I mean serious troubles with voice. For example, Muscle Tension Dysphonia. 

Susan's Story

Let me tell you about one of my clients. Let’s call her Susan. That’s not her real name. Susan has a voice issue that prevents her from using her voice all day long. Her voice gets tired or even worse, she gets sore throats after talking. But her job requires voice use for prolonged periods of time, giving presentations and talking on the phone. She decides to talk to her employer to find some accommodations while she is dealing with her vocal issues.

She comes to the meeting tired because she could not sleep the night before. Too many thoughts running in her mind. She starts the meeting fairly confident and her voice reflects that. But after a few minutes, her voice gets weaker and weaker. She has to repeat herself which makes her uncomfortable. Her breath is laboured, her heart rate is through the roof, and her mouth is as dry as a sandy beach. She can feel her throat getting smaller and smaller by the minute. By the end of the meeting, she can barely say anything, her throat hurts and she cannot wait to leave the room. 

As soon as she is done, she darts out of the room, where her good friend and colleague meets her with a smile. Susan, sighs with relief and tells her friend: thank you so much for being here for me. These words come out of her mouth with a clarity, precision and ease that she lacked only a few minutes before. How is that possible?

One person with the same voice. But two different emotionally charged situations, affecting the function of her voice. This is a wonderful illustration of how our voice is greatly influenced by our emotions and thoughts. 

The Power of Mind

I am making this video in an effort to let everyone who wants to listen know that we underestimate the power of mind on our voices.

If you are experiencing vocal issues and you are ready to work towards a free and confident voice, click this link to find out how I could help. 


So, now we know that stress, worries, fears, thoughts and emotions can affect your voice. The good news is that there are a lot of things that we can do to overcome this problem. I am not suggesting that they are quick fixes. No, absolutely not. On the contrary, this type of problems usually require a lot of inner work, mind work if you want and that can be the reason why many people are not successful because it’s not something tangible, like doing 10 squats every day and your body will be stronger. It's more complicated than that.

Here are some examples of things you can do to decrease the response of your body to stress and anxiety:

  • mindfulness practices,
  • breathing exercises,
  • hypnotherapy,
  • self-compassion exercises,
  • meditation,
  • massage,
  • stretching,
  • physical exercises,
  • and many more.  

Watch the video below to learn 2 very powerful exercises to start dealing with stress in your life that is affecting your voice:

Link to the video:


Let's find more vocal freedom together!