Selective mutism is a type of anxiety disorder in which the affected person cannot speak in a particular situation or with a particular person despite his capability of speaking normally. Although perceived to be a disorder of children, selective mutism can further continue into adulthood.
Adults suffering from selective mutism stay silent in particular situation even if they are warned that their silence will amount to punishment. This behavior may affect them socially as failure to speak in certain situation may be perceived by others as an act of rudeness or shyness.
The exact cause of this involuntary silence is not known, but it is presumed to develop due to inherited tendency for social anxiety. There may be history of early mental trauma or child abuse in childhood. Treatment consists of counseling and behavioral therapy.
Causes Of Selective Mutism In Adults
The exact cause of selective mutism in adults is not known. But several people believe the condition stems from anxiety disorder or a problem related to speech. In some adults it may be related to issue of low self esteem. In most adults it is a continuation from childhood, although the incidence is said to be reduced by the time the affected child becomes adult.
Selective mutism is more prevalent in females as compared to males. It can occur in people of any origin. In some adults there may be an inherited tendency towards anxiety. Adults who are socially more conscious may become victim of selective mutism. Early life trauma, physical and mental abuse in childhood, certain stressful life events are contributory factors of selective mutism in adults.
Signs And Symptoms Of Selective Mutism
An adult suffering from selective mutism is fully able to understand the language as well as is able to speak, but he cannot speak in certain situations, although he is expected by others around him. There is nothing abnormal with his tongue or the voice box but yet he fails to speak.
It can be said to be situational silence, for example a person may talk perfectly well when he is at home with his family members, but becomes incapable to speak at workplace or at a social gathering. The symptoms of selective mutism can be:
- Failure to speak in particular place, with specific people, or in certain environment.
- This may affect his daily life. For a child it may affect his scholastic performance for an adult it may affect achievement at his workplace.
- The condition may have prevailed since childhood or may have cropped up recently since few months or years.
- Person who fails to speak at particular point where he needs to speak has no relation with his knowledge or his intelligence.
- Shyness, fear to participate in social gathering.
- Facial expression is blank in certain situations.
- Patient is sensitive to noise.
- Person avoids eye contact.
- He is exceptionally intelligent.
Treatment For Selective Mutism In Adults
Treatment of selective mutism in adults is behavioral as well as medications. Some medical practitioners recommend anti anxiolytic drugs that will help to reduce anxiety in a person. Gradually the medicines are tapered and stopped once the adult person has learned how to cope with situation that caused anxiety and starts to feel comfortable in social setting.
Along with medicines behavioral therapy has a great role to play. In behavioral therapy the affected person is encouraged to speak by the therapist in situations in which once he was unable to talk.