What happens to our voices when we’re angry, frustrated, sad, emotional, anxious or stressed?
As we articulate thoughts and feelings about an event or trauma or situation it’s quite common to experience a feeling of being “all choked up” or a frog in the throat. I’m aware of how my throat responds when talking about a difficult situation. It feels like acute tightening in my neck and tongue sides and base and significant muscle fatigue and my voice can become low and creaky. I’m aware of this temporary physical reaction to my own anger and sadness and it’s normal. Some people will develop more chronic voice disorders as a result of unconscious stress or unawareness of the connection between voice and our emotions.
The vocal tract is supplied by a complex nerve system including input from the sympathetic and autonomic nervous systems, closely linked to the emotional centres in the brain. Think about how you would recognise a friend or loved one to be upset or angry just by the sound of their voice. Our voices will be impacted by the rapid physical reaction of the body to stress: increased breathing rate, dry mouth, tremor, increased temperature and muscle tension. Of course the upper body and vocal tract can be particularly sensitive to muscle tension.
Sometimes there might be no other symptoms but your voice or throat sensations are telling you there are feelings that need attending to. Knowledge and awareness of how our mind and body interact and connect helps us to understand and remedy these physical reactions when they become abnormal or start affecting vocal performance.