Selective Mutism – Anxiety Disorder


A child or young person with a disorder called Selective Mutim does not speak in certain situations and environments. They are able to speak in other places at home. Children who experience selective mutism can freeze when they are expected to speak to someone, which makes it hard for them to talk.

When a child is three years old and has developed their ability to speak, they can be diagnosed with Selective Muticum. If not treated, it can persist into adulthood.

Approximately 1 in 140 young people have the disorder. It is common for a child or young person with anxiety to happen. There is a myth that children treatment resistant depression on the spectrum are more likely to have a problem with it.

There are several reasons why a person might be afraid of speaking. There is no single cause of the problem.

How can selective mutism be treated?

If left unaddressed, it can lead to social anxiety, low self-esteem and frustration, and can be treated with caution.

Treatments don’t focus on speaking, but on reducing anxiety that is linked to speaking. People around the child or young person can help by taking off the pressure to speak at school or at home. It is important that parents and teachers are supported.

If the anxiety is severe, then it is helpful for CAMHS to be involved, as the Speech and Language Therapy team is often the most helpful service to treat it. Cognitive behavior therapy can help in some cases ofselective mental disorders.

More information and support

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