By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
Selective Mutism is the failure to speak at times when speech is necessary.
Selective Mutism is an interesting disorder. It is one of the less common anxiety disorders and one which commonly first appears in childhood. This disorder often co-occurs with Social Anxiety Disorder. As with all the anxiety disorders, Selective Mutism may continue well into adulthood.
Selective Mutism is not the inability to speak or the willful refusal to speak. Selective Mutism occurs when someone chooses not to speak in a particular situation even when not speaking may cause them difficult. Children with this condition will avoid starting a conversation with other children. When spoken to they will fail to respond.
Selective Mutism gets noticed when children begin to attend school.
Children with Selective Mutism do poorly in school because they do not respond verbally to the teacher and do not read out loud. Those with this disorder may use other ways of communicating rather than speaking. Sometimes they will point, grunt, or used personally significant gestures. They may also be willing to engage in social activities when speech is not required.
Children with Selective Mutism are able to speak normally at home with their parents or primary caregivers. They may be unwilling to speak in the presence of close relatives including cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents.
Risk factors for Selective Mutism.
Children who are shy are at extra risk to develop this disorder. Having parents who are withdrawn or growing up in a socially isolated environment may also be risk factors. It is possible that having overprotective or controlling parents increases this risk. There’s some evidence that children with this disorder have difficulty understanding the things that are said to them. Having Social Anxiety Disorder or a family history of it may also increase the risks.
Other problems may accompany Selective Mutism.
People with Selective Mutism also frequently are shy and experience social embarrassment. They may be isolated and withdrawn. Children with Selective Mutism may be clingy and become easily upset. They may also exhibit temper tantrums and oppositional behavior.
Having this disorder early in life and not getting treatment for it puts the child at extra risk for poor development and failure to learn needed social skills.
Things that are excluded from a Selective Mutism diagnosis.
To get this diagnosis, this condition of not speaking even when you need to speak must go on for a month or more. If the thing keeping you from speaking is the result of not knowing the English language or being bilingual in some way, this is not a case of Selective Mutism.
Also excluded from the definition of Selective Mutism are things related to speech fluency. If the person involved is experiencing an episode of hearing voices, if being psychotic, or a schizophrenia-like condition, this also is outside the definition of Selective Mutism.
FYI These “What is” sometimes “What are” posts are my efforts to explain terms commonly used in Mental Health, Clinical Counseling, Substance Use Disorder Counseling, Psychology, Life Coaching, and related disciplines in a plain language way. Many are based on the new DSM-5, some of the older posts were based on the DSM-IV-TR, both published by the APA. For the more technical versions please consult the DSM or other appropriate references.
More “What is” posts will be found at What is.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!
My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.
Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.
Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.
As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.
Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.
Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.
Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.
What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?
Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.
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