My Mouth Moves When I Think

Reader’s Question

Doc, I find that I’m talking to myself a lot. My mouth is moving, but no sounds are coming out. My wife will tell me that when I’m outside working in the yard I’m, “going at it.” She’ll pick on me and say, “who are you talking to?” Needless to say I’m starting to feel embarrassed and am just now starting to find solutions to this “condition” if it is one. I came across your web site and am just looking for a few ideas or solutions. Thanks in advance for taking time out of your schedule to answer my question.

Psychologist’s Reply

This is a common body movement. Your mouth is mimicking your thoughts. It commonly happens when we are thinking about something but at the same time not paying attention to our environment. I hope you’re not doing this when using a chainsaw! Most people do this to some degree such as singing with the radio, bending and playing “air guitar” when listening to music, punching in the living room when watching a boxing match, and dodging hits when watching football. Our body tends to imitate then physically animate what we are thinking and feeling.

Some folks verbalize their thoughts more than others. Children and adults with ADHD “self-talk” more than others. Kids with ADHD will actually give themselves instructions when drawing as in “draw this line down to here, then over here, then…”.

It’s not a mental health problem but the clinical treatment and management is rather simple. When working outside — chew gum. Hard candy also works well. This strategy will prevent the subtle mimicking and keep your wife from questioning your sanity.

As an odd note, if you’ve always done this…it’s no big deal. If you have suddenly started these mouth movements “out of the blue” it may reflect a medication side effect or the beginning of a movement disorder, depending on your age and medical condition. If it’s a sudden onset, are other parts of your body moving — hands and fingers moving, restless legs, that sort of thing? Have you began or changed medication of any kind? If so, consult you physician for a medical assessment of the situation.

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