Selective Mutism

Selective Mutism

What Is Selective Mutism?

People with SM frequently suffer Social Anxiety and may have developed SM as a coping mechanism for their anxiety. Most of the time, no specific trauma is related with the syndrome; but, in certain cases, the SM appears to have been caused by a specific traumatic incident. Sufferers find themselves unable to talk in specific situations or to specific persons, even when the consequences are severe.

They may also exhibit other disruptive behavior, such as an unwillingness to look others in the eyes, difficulties expressing themselves, and intense emotions of social humiliation. They can communicate regularly in other settings, and there is no medical basis for their mutism, yet they are utterly unable to speak in some situations.


Children whose speech talents have typically developed to a certain age may regress or cease speaking, even becoming entirely mute in settings that give them fear, and becoming increasingly socially isolated as a result.

Although some persons with autism spectrum condition have SM, those who have SM are not always on the spectrum. To give the best possible therapy, a thorough diagnosis is required, including eliminating illnesses that may first appear to present with identical symptoms, as well as the potential of a speech impairment.

Diagnosis And Treatment

Most individuals with SM react well to therapy, but far too many are mistakenly assumed to be just irritable or difficult at first, and may even be penalized at school or in other places that give them worry, rather than receiving the assistance they require. Punishment and negative reinforcement nearly always worsen the illness and can lead to maladaptive coping techniques like picking at their nails or biting their hair.

Without therapy, SM can lead to the development of a variety of psychiatric problems, emphasizing the importance of early detection and treatment of the illness.

Once a child is diagnosed with SM (ideally as soon as possible, which for many is when they begin school), various treatment approaches can be offered, including positive reinforcement when the child verbalizes responses in the context of speaking with someone they are comfortable with, but in an environment (such as a classroom) that normally causes them anxiety. They can be taught social methods to assist them manage anxious circumstances, and their parents or caregivers can be taught strategies to help increase the child's self-esteem and disperse feelings of worry. Anti-anxiety medication may also be administered in certain conditions and for a limited length of time to lessen the child's general anxiety levels, making it easier for them to begin to talk.


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