Why Fibro Affects Your Speech

I’m often astounded over the myriad of inexplicable symptoms that come along with Fibro and usually, I never find out what causes them. We typically just throw them into “the Fibro bucket”, which is pretty much bottomless and dismiss them without ever knowing. So it’s really great when you actually get an answer!

One such “symptom”, as most people with Fibro know, is difficulty speaking. I used to speak publicly. I gave speeches at Colleges, gave work related presentations and business pitches to Executives. For years, speaking with and to people, was the crux of my career and then, I “got sick”. Pain is just one of a multitude of reasons that I gave up working, but another driving force, was an inability to speak. Nowadays, I sometimes have difficulty forming sentences, articulating my thoughts into words and worst of all, I can never guarantee what will actually fall out of my mouth; regardless of what I intended.

When the opportunity arose, I brought it up to my Neurologist, who is the Head of Neurology at Saint Vincent’s Hospital and the answer was pretty simple: pain is the first thing processed by the brain. So for people who are constantly in pain, everything else comes secondary to that, including speech. So when the brain is constantly being flooded with pain signals, it’s too busy processing those to focus on other signals.

Pretty crazy how simple that is, right? It doesn’t help to improve things, but it certainly helps to know and understand why it happens.

Meeting new people, for the first time or being in a social setting now creates anxiety and embarrassment, as I’m sure it does for anyone affected in this way. It can feel like a direct reflection on my level of intelligence or competence. So, we handle it in a few ways.

We hope it doesn’t come up!!

Ahead of any situations with new people, I try to keep my pain levels well controlled.

If it’s someone important, like when meeting my Son’s Girlfriend recently, he actually headed it all off and explained it to her ahead of time. Which was great, because it actually did come up while we were out to eat. Having been given an explanation ahead of time, I never felt the need to explain or feel embarrassed. Instead, we laughed about it. Which, brings me to my last recommendation:

Laugh. It isn’t always easy to have a sense of humor or to brush off the challenges that come in even the simplest of things, like talking. But trying to not take everything so seriously does help. My kids never hesitate to pounce when gibberish falls out of my mouth.

Above all, be kind to yourself and have sympathy. There is a scientific explanation. Speech challenges are real and they in no way reflect incompetency or lack of intelligence. Everyone has their challenges and no one is perfect. So if and when it does come up, I simply explain. Now you can too.

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Fighting with Fibro and Living With Purpose. Mom, Wife, Blogger and animal lover. Fighting with Chronic Illness on a minute by minute basis; sometimes winning.

35 thoughts on “Why Fibro Affects Your Speech

  1. Thank you for explaining the reason for gibberish it helps me understand what’s been going on with me . I’ve had fibromyalgia for over 13 years so I totally get the pain.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Pam. I’m so glad my post was helpful. For me, getting answers really helps and it can oftentime be a struggle. It may not improve the situation, but at least I know the causes behind what’s happening. So I hope to help others by sharing what I know and learn. I’m wishing you well. 13 years is a long time-you’re a Warrior!

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      1. Thank you so much for sharing, I’m always afraid to talk never knowing how my work are going to come out. I live in the south but I’m from the north I have always been proud of my proper northern ascent. Now I don’t know what’s going to come out of my mouth.😢😢😢

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      2. Hey Monica, I know, right? It’s always a gamble, isn’t it? I’m sorry. I can certainly relate. I used to give speeches and it has always been important to me to be articulate and well spoken. I lost that too. You’re right, too. I get so nervous speaking to new people, its atrocious. I used to be an outgoing social person and that, like everything else, has changed too. I’m sure your accent is still great though!! Thanks for reading and commenting!!! Warmly, Stacey

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      1. I’m so glad you can laugh about it, Vanessa!! It’s super frustrating and often embarrassing-especially when I try multiple times to say something and no matter what, it’s just gibberish. Trying to have a sense of humor is sometimes all we can do!!

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  2. Stacey, this is spot on! Yes! Our fibro brains tend to the pain first, everything else is secondary. Speech, walking, sleep… all secondary but affecting the brain. I went through a period of time when my family thought I was drunk all the time! I mean, I couldn’t talk and I would stumble from time to time. (I wish I had been drunk, then I’d have a fun reason!) Bravo for your son forwarning his girlfriend. I would have preferred having an answer at the beginning of these difficulties so I could’ve headed off some insults! ~Kim

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    1. Kim, thanks SO much for coming back and reading again. I’m really glad you liked my post. My incoherent speech and randomly falling over are now the running jokes in our family, but there was a time when it really hurt and embarrassed me. As if everything else wasn’t overwhelming enough, it’s as if you suddenly lose your intelligence and capabilities too. This has been one of the life changing answers I’ve gotten, so I try to write about the things I’ve learned or wish I knew all along. That way, I’m hopefully helping out others that are struggling with the same!! Love your comments!! ~Stacey

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      1. You are doing a great service, advocating for fibromyalgia Awareness! We all search for answers, many times they come after the damage has been done. So, together, we can maybe help the next lot of fibro warriors not be so misunderstood. It does hurt, emotionally, when we are mocked for things we do, not knowing why. We beat ourselves up enough! We know what we can no longer do. We are aware. You are an excellent blogger! You will help many! May I share this post? 😊

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      2. Thanks so much Kim, I would be honored!! Please share away!!!
        And you’re right, together we can change and improve it for others. That’s precisely what this is all about; helping others and living with purpose.
        I’m in excellent company with you.

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  3. 14 Year Fibro.Fighter…
    It does Get Frustrating. Can Be Embarrassing.. Hurts When Mocked by Others..

    Thankyou for Sharing..

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    1. 14 years. Wow. God love you. I know how it feels to experience all the emotions you do. It’s hard to live with all this-it goes far beyond just “being sick”. I hoped, when I wrote this, that maybe explaining why, for some people, might help. I’m grateful you read and commented. Thank you so much!!

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  4. Hi Stacey. Thk you so much for your post. I’ve always had symptoms of fibro, but they got worse in my twenties. I am 36, so people look at me like I am this incompetent young lady and wonder why the heck she can’t speak right. [Even me typing takes some time]My spouse who is divorcing me and who I’ve been trying to reconcile with, but now I am finally saying no more taking him back. He has made fun of me when I can’t seem to get the right word or pronounciation of a word right even when it’s at the tip of my tongue. That puts a lot of pressure on me and stress and I just tell him “You know what I mean!?”. He plays dumb w me and it is very upsetting that your spouse even after telling him your speach problem just doesn’t believe you.
    I have been practicing opening my mouth more and repeating to myself [when I can remember…another symptom, brain fog] a word or idea that I find myself encountering a lot. It helps some. Made me cry to hear this is not just the way I feel bc there are so many people who still don’t believe we have a chronic illness bc we don’t have a missing limb.

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    1. Oh Ruby. I had to sit for a bit and digest your post before responding. I wish I could hug you. So instead, I’m sending virtual hugs. I’m so happy you found the post helpful. So, like the issues with speech, the brain fog and typing are also both results of the brain being busy. When the brain is processing pain, that occupies it’s bandwith. So anything from thinking and talking, to walking, is affected. That’s why too, some of us are so clumsy. (I actually am talented enough to frequently trip UP the stairs.) There are certainly other reasons that your hands, balance and brain are affected, but again, the brain processes pain first, everything else comes second. With all due respect, I am proud of you not allowing someone to be disrespectful to you anymore. That’s a super scary and difficult thing to do. BUT, you deserve to be with someone who understands what you are going through, who supports and respects you. Being sick, does not make you unworthy of having a supportive and sympathetic spouse. You are totally still deserving. I will be thinking of you and sending you strength and prayers. As for the invisibility of it, ugh, that’s a tough one. It’s the worst when people say, “oh my God, Stace, you look great!!! Are you feeling better?”. Ahm. No. I’m in so much pain (or nausea or dizzy or hot or faint or whatever) that I want to crawl under a rock and die…..but thanks for the compliment. Sometimes, I wish I looked as awful as I feel, because then it would just be so much easier to explain. BUT……Ruby, I have eliminated ALOT of people in my life. My new theory is that if someone doesn’t believe me, respect me or support me, then I don’t need them in my life. We have enough to contend with. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I really hope you will continue to do so. If you look at some of the other reader’s comments, know you are NOT alone and what you are experiencing IS real. I will be thinking of you, Ruby. Sending virtual hugs. ~Stacey ❤

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  5. There are times when I am speaking and mid-sentence, lose my train of thought entirely. Then there are the times when I just “know” the word, but it “won’t come out”. My family get rather frustrated with me – my daughter particularly, has little patience with me. This just exacerbates the situation – not only do I feel abject disappointment in the way I am now, but hurt too at the lack of understanding. I have been such a capable woman for most of life – fybro is taking that away from me 😦

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    1. Maryse, I totally understand how you feel, I have experienced all you described above. If you look at some of the comments starting to come in, so do other people in our situation. I’m so sorry. Those are all awful feelings to experience. I have to say, though, you totally ARE still capable!!! Just in different ways. Please know that in your heart. At your root, you are *still* the same woman, with the same heart, soul and intelligence. You are just that person who now lives with some pretty challenging constraints. It’s awful to feel that “abject disappointment” that you described. I feel it too, often. I think that people who are not sick find it impossible to believe ALL of the symptoms or affects our diseases have on us. I think I can safely assure you that anyone who got sick would also fall prey to these things. Please don’t feel incapable-that is so counter intuitive (trust me, I know). That is exactly why I started to write, because we ARE still capable. It’s just a matter of finding new ways to demonstrate that capability. Maryse, you are NOT alone. I support you. Others here support you. I will pray that those in your life support you too. Much love, Maryse. I hope you will continue to follow and comment. I am with you. ❤

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  6. Hi! I loved your article and the comments. I have just discovered that my fibro actually goes back to my teenage years ( I am 65 yrs old) I could remember a time where I had severe symptoms that turned my life upside down. I thought at the time I had something seriously wrong with me. Not only was I having pain but I was having massive headaches and extreme fatigue. Then on top of that I had an unreasonable fear and panic attacks. This all came on top of untreated chronic asthma. In my senior year I missed my last semester because of all the sickness. Thankfully, I had enough credits to graduate. Every doctor more or less told me it was all in my head (no pun intended!). I believed them. About a year later I went into a period of time where the sympthoms lessened. I went to College and graduated. Still had minor pain but not controling me. Then in 2003 I began experiencing those old sympthoms . It was at that time I was diagnosed with Fibro. The journey to the present day has been long and painful. I lost my job in 2005 and fought to get Social Security Disability until 2008 which I won. Now, I live by myself because I never married. Have only a few friends who get it. All others have fallen by the wayside. The same with my family. I have one neice who tries but even she doesn’t comprehend the scope of the illness. I am so thankful that there are people like you that have made it a priority to educate. I have experienced all of the things you mentioned in your article. Even typing this message had to be reread several times to correct errors, especially in spelling. That has effected me along with the stumbling speech and totally losing trains of thoughts.Medically I still am a mess. But fibro has taught me that you must live one day at a time, deal with the present,.make the most out of that day, even it means lying in bed. It does not help if you fuss about what has been lost, the shrinking of your world, or what can the future hold. To wander down those paths will only bring negative thoughts which will fuel your pain. Don’t get me wrong I still find myself wandering down those paths myself.Finally, always remember that you must be your own advocate. Gentle hugs to all.

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    1. LeaAnn, it just so happened that I was writing a new Blog Post on pretty much every subject that your comment just touched upon. I totally get it and I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said. Looking back now, I am also pretty sure that I had dormant Fibro all my life. It takes some time with having it and a different perspective to realize that though. I’m glad you were able to win Disability. Getting sick can really be financially crippling. Your comments and post are ironic, given I was writing exactly all you brought up. Take a look at my newest post, if you like. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I’m glad you found me. Much Love ~Stacey

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    1. Yesterday it took me all day just to write my Blog post and respond to one email. My head was a jumbled mess of thoughts and I couldn’t connect or articulate those thoughts into words on the paper. It was the first time I can remember really struggling with Brain Fog in that way. Always an adventure, isn’t it, Dawn?
      At least on paper we can correct it before sounding ridiculous, right???
      Thanks for reading and commenting!!
      ~Stacey

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  7. Dear Stacey, this is the first time ever that I read an article linking Fibro with speach problems. English is my second language (Imagine the confusion!). I am an accountant, and the last 3 years have been the worst. I experienced problems communicating with my new boss and co-workers and in addition I started having communication problems in my marriage that I blamed on me not being very smart. Reading your article has brought tears to my eyes. The realization that I am not an IDIOT is so comforting. I am in the process of ending my 28 year marriage. I am all by myself and need to continue to work. Do you recommend getting under the care of a neurologist?
    Thank you for your blog. You are making a positive impact in the life of many women.
    – Patricia A.

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    1. Goodness, two languages floating in your head!! If that were me I’d probably create a third one out of the two combined and end up speaking something no one understood! (joke 😉 You are NOT an idiot and you certainly are intelligent!! Our difficulties with speaking have nothing to do with our levels of intelligence. Look at the other comments-there’s a lot of us!! I know how you feel though. It can be frustrating and embarrassing and when people get frustrated with you, it just makes it all worse. I’m sorry you’re contending with this too. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s anything that can be done for this. I see a Neurologist for Migraines, headaches & RLS. He just happened to tell me that one day. To be honest, I’m not sure how many would know that. He’s my third and I’m about to trade him in too!!! People with Fibro typically see a Rheumatologist to begin with. Depending on your symptoms, a Neurologist may also be helpful. Just not for this. I am so sorry about your marriage. I will be thinking of you and praying for you. I’m so happy you read my post and commented. I’m glad to hear from you. Warmly, Stacey

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  8. Omg Stacy thank you so much for that explanation! I have been dealing with fibro since 2004 and telling my family that of all the things that fibro has taken from me, my ability to speak is what I miss the most. At least now I know why, thank you again for this post.

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    1. You’re so welcome!! I’m glad you found my post. I agree. It’s really tough to lose your words. I used to pride myself on my articulation and speaking skills. Too bad we can’t all invent our own Fibro language!!

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  9. Thanks for your post I get so much identification reading things like this and I too don’t get frustrated about this problem and laugh it off now it’s so much easier I used to get so angry and frustrated with myself but that was just wearing me out its nice to have an understanding of what it is now so thanks again xx

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jo. I know, right? So many of the symptoms we just never get explained or have a determinable cause. So if and when I get one, I feel like it’s important to share. I agree-I try to laugh it off too. Sometimes that proves harder than others, but we can’t change it, so might as well laugh at it 😉

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  10. I have fibro, and I go to an acupuncturist as part of my attempt to relieve some of my pain. One weekend I was out with friends, and I knew what I was trying to say, but the wrong words kept coming out. On the third try, I was able to vocalize the correct word. So Tuesday rolls around, and I go in for my regular acupuncture appointment. I mentioned this to the Dr, because it freaked me out. He immediately grabs a needle and inserts it into my forehead, starts spinning it, and tells me to start talking. Tell him a story. I did as requested. Since then, it has only happened one more time. The same treatment a second time seems to have stopped that. I still have brain fog, and can’t always think of the right word, but at least when I do think of a word, it is the one that comes out of my mouth! My Dr explained something to the effect of that particular point helping to reset speech capabilities. I don’t understand it, but I’m not complaining! The amount of symptoms that come with fibromyalgia are just staggering. Here’s hoping for relief for all of us. 😉

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    1. Wow!! Great info Stephanie!! This is really great to know! I had said that after the New Year I would be trying Acupuncture. Sounds like this is another reason to make good on that. Have you found other measurable results too?
      Thanks so much!! Stacey

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      1. Acupuncture has helped with the pain, as well as when other symptoms pop up from time to time. It seems to stop most of them in their tracks. It’s not a miracle cure, but I don’t know how I would have made it through the last year without it. I’ve ‘been sick’ for many years, but the last 3+ have been the worst by far.) I also started LDN (Low Dose Naltrexone) about 6 months ago. It has helped my flares to be less intense. Doesn’t have all those side effects (for me) that so many meds have. It is the only medication I actually take. I take plenty of supplements. I hope your search for a good acupuncturist is fruitful and quick! 😉

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  11. I’m so so glad I came across this blog! It explained many things that I have been questioning.. I’ve had fibro since 2007.
    Just typing this comment I’m exhausted and when I come to speak my mouth is extremely exhausted to even spill out the words. I’ve become a good listener to everyone though lol! Thank you very much for writing this article ♥

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    1. I’m so glad you read it and commented!! Thank you!!
      I’m really happy you found that helpful.
      Oh gosh, Petra, when I’m tired, it’s absolutely hopeless!! I give you credit for your well articulated comment.
      My Husband used to say he never talked so much as he did once he met me. Shocking that even I’m quiet now. Sometimes, it’s just easier and saves face. Right?

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      1. Hi stacey, thank you for sharing that it so helpful to get an understanding of as to why our speech is effected, iv had fibo for 25 years , it only the last 3 yrs it got to a point iv had to ajust things in my life x take medication, i had tryed to push through it for so long being strong minded I hate anything getting the better of me , but I push on to a point it was flooring me x then I had to ask for help, I attended counciling and it helped me mentally ajust my life still hard going x know two days are the same, or rather know 2 hours are the same. Thank you.

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      2. Hi Sara, thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment!! I’m so glad you found me. WOW!! I’m sorry things took a turn for the worse. You are *still* a warrior-needing help doesn’t change that!! I understand how defeating it can feel though. I’ve certainly felt that way myself. I’m glad you got counseling, with a good Therapist it can really help (at least from my experiences). I can completely relate to no 2 hours being the same. Sometimes, I shift massively in a matter of minutes and need to suddenly lie down. Life can be challenging with Fibro. Sending you strength and well wishes, Sara
        ❤ Stace

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