Selective mutism is when an individual does not speak in situations in which he or she would be expected to speak, such as among friends; despite no hearing, speaking, physical or mental impairments. Speech is normal around family members and in the home.
What causes selective mutism?
While the cause of selective mutism is unknown, there are several theories – one of which is that it is potentially a means of punishing one’s parents. Selective mutism is an extreme form of social anxiety; a distrust of the outside world resulting from a strong attachment to parents, a response to trauma, or a way to prevent the sharing of past traumas with others.
Who is more likely to be affected?
It is more likely to occur in girls than in boys.
When does selective mutism develop?
Selective mutism typically develops between the ages of three and six but is not diagnosed until the child attends school.
What other conditions commonly occur with selective mutism?
Nearly 40% of children with this disorder also have language and speech disorders. A majority of individuals (68%) will also experience developmental delays, and over 70% will also experience anxiety disorders. Despite the low incidence of Asperger’s in the general population, nearly 7% of individuals with selective mutism also have Asperger’s disease. This is not surprising as symptoms of Asperger’s disease include reduced and unusual social interactions. Other psychiatric disorders that may also occur with selective mutism include depression, panic disorders, dissociative disorders, and obsessive-compulsive behavior.
How long does selective mutism last?
The disorder can last for a few months or a few years. While most individuals grow out of it, their talking behaviors remain somewhat impaired, and they may also have other anxiety disorders.
What treatments are available for selective mutism?
Selective mutism can be treated through many psychological methods. These include individual play, behavior and family therapy. SSRIs have also been shown to be somewhat effective.