More Than the Fear of Talking

Selective Mutism affects so much more than just speech. The mutism is often what people notice most about the disorder, or only pay attention to. The term Selective Mutism can make it seem like it only affects speech. That is where this misconception usually comes from. Many individuals with Selective Mutism have other struggles and anxieties as well. In this blog post I will be sharing my experience of how Selective Mutism has affected me in more ways than just speech.

“Anxiety often doesn’t limit itself to one area.” – Lucy Nathanson

Selective Mutism can often co-exist with other disorders as well. One of the most common comorbidities for these individuals is social anxiety.

I have social anxiety as well as Selective Mutism. I am not exactly sure which of the two came first for me, but I know that I have struggled with social anxiety from a very early age.

This picture above is from a summer program. I was 4 years old at the time. I found myself unable to participate in the activity with all the other children due to social anxiety.

Over the years social anxiety has made it hard, and sometimes impossible for me to participate in certain activities during different social situations. It has always felt like my whole body freezes rather than just my words, in these situations and activities. An example of this is that during my childhood years at school I always found myself unable to participate in the P.E lessons. I wasn’t refusing to participate during P.E lessons, but it rather always felt like I was physically unable to take part in anything during these lessons.

Another struggle I had in school was that I was usually unable to raise my hand in class to let the teacher know that I needed help. It was very hard for me to raise my hand, especially with others watching, so I would often struggle in silence.

I have also always found it hard to do anything that puts the attention on me in social situations, and I am also very self conscious around other people. If I feel like I am being watched by others, it will make it even harder for me to do certain things or complete tasks in social situations. This is very common for many individuals with SM and social anxiety to experience.

Eye contact is something that I also struggle with in certain situations. I can’t remember if I struggled to maintain eye contact as a child. But I know that I first noticed it during my teenage years. It felt very strange to me, and I didn’t understand why I struggled with this, until I started researching more about Selective Mutism and found out that it can be quite a common struggle for those with SM.

When I attended school in Sweden at the ages of 4-10, I often found myself unable to smile during picture day. I didn’t realise though that this was most likely due to selective mutism and anxiety until I started blogging and researching more about SM. This can also be quite a common struggle for individuals with selective mutism due to anxiety and expectations from others. It can also be very intimidating especially in uncomfortable or anxiety ridden situations.

These are some photos from picture day at school

Selective Mutism is an anxiety disorder so it will affect other areas in the individual’s life as well. It is so important to not only focus on speech because by doing so it often reinforces the mutism. People with Selective Mutism are so much more than quiet. It is also important to remember that SM affects everyone differently because each person is different and unique. Everyone will not have the same struggles and anxieties, and it also varies from person to person depending on the social situation.

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