October was "Selective Mutism Awareness" month. One of the Facebook groups I'm part of posted a different fact about SM each day of the month. (If you are my Facebook friend, you probably saw when I posted them), but I decided to post them to my blog in an effort to get the word out about SM.
1. The main symptom of selective mutism is a lack of speech in specific social situations.
2. People with selective mutism can and do talk normally in situations where they are entirely comfortable.
3. Children with selective mutism are often extremely talkative and loud when they feel comfortable.
4. It’s common for people with selective mutism to struggle to communicate in social situations even without their voice (by whispering, writing, or pointing, for example).
5. Some people with selective mutism display stiff body language and a blank facial expression in situations where they have trouble communicating.
6. People with selective mutism are often of above-average intelligence.
7. Selective mutism almost always develops before the age of six.
8. Children often show the first noticeable symptoms of selective mutism when they start preschool or kindergarten.
9. School is the most common place for someone with selective mutism to be silent, and inside their house is the most common place for them to be able to talk.
10. According to research, 0.1% to 0.7% of children have selective mutism. That’s one child in every 1000 to one in every 150.
11. Over 90% of people with selective mutism have social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, as well.
12. It’s common for people with selective mutism to have more than one other anxiety disorders or phobias.
13. Without treatment, it’s not uncommon for childhood selective mutism to continue into teenage years or even adulthood, and it can become significantly worse rather than improving over time.
14. It’s thought that many children with untreated selective mutism to grow into adults who can speak but suffer from severe social anxiety disorder and possibly depression.
15. The first name for selective mutism was “aphasia voluntaria” (voluntary lack of ability to speak), which was first mentioned in 1877.
16. The Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders first included selective mutism in 1980 as “elective mutism,” again meaning a voluntary lack of speech.
17. An "s" was added to the name “elective mutism” in 1994. The new name, “selective mutism,” was supposed to avoid the implication that people with the disorder choose not to speak.
18. In the proposed revision to the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders, selective mutism is listed as a subtype of social anxiety disorder.
19. People with selective mutism usually say that they want to talk but either are too afraid to or feel like they physically can’t.
20. Selective mutism sufferers almost never have control over when they speak normally and when they are silent, though it may look like they do.
21. Some people with selective mutism appear entirely calm and confident in social situations, though they may still feel extreme anxiety about speaking.
22. Selective mutism is not caused by trauma. It is said that some people who go through trauma suffer “traumatic mutism” in which they suddenly stop speaking in all situations for a relatively short amount of time. This is an entirely different pattern than selective mutism.
23. Many people with high-functioning autism have selective mutism or symptoms of selective mutism, but the majority of people with selective mutism are not autistic.
24. It’s thought that some people with selective mutism are highly sensitive, and when they become overwhelmed by sensory input, they "shut down" and are unable to interact with others.
25. Some children with selective mutism have very minor speech or language problems, which make them more anxious about talking.
26. Currently, most treatments for selective mutism emphasize that although the person needs to interact with people in situations they’re scared of, they should not be told that they need to speak.
27. Pressuring someone with selective mutism to speak or punishing them for failing to do so is often counterproductive because it makes them more anxious, which reinforces the problem.
28. Selective mutism is often treated like a phobia: the person slowly works through a list of anxiety-provoking things, from least frightening to most, which ends with speaking out loud to new people. (This is called desensitization.)
29. Sometimes, a person with selective mutism needs to have their more general anxieties treated before they can think about dealing with their fear of speaking.
30. Antidepressant drugs help some people with selective mutism, but even when they do work, they are unlikely to cure it entirely without being combined with therapy.
31. Selective mutism can be completely cured, but this tends to get more difficult the longer it goes on before correct treatment begins.