, pub-3656949002636110, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 Selective Mutism in Youngsters | Streetwise Mental Health

Selective mutism in Youngsters (SM). 

Selective mutism is a disorder that is complex anxiety in children. It is a condition where symptoms are the child's inability to communicate and speak in certain societal settings, such as groups and schooling. A child suffering mutism will only be able to speak in a setting where they feel relaxed, comfortable and secure.  

Children do not display this anxiety disorder in the same way. Some of them find they cannot communicate and are completely mute with anyone in a social setting. Many speak in whispers and can only speak to select people. Some feel waves of fear if they are in certain social settings. Most become socially isolated and freeze at thoughts, are expressionless and unemotional. Some that are less severely affected find they can talk to a few close friends and associates that they can bond with, but are unable to speak to peers and teachers in an effective manner. 

Many of the children and teens with this condition of SM also have social anxiety or a social phobia. It is a painful and debilitating the young. Adolescents and children actually have extreme fear when trying to speak in social situations. Many of you with selective mutism have greater difficulty communicating or initiating conversation about feelings, and emotions in a non-verbal context. In social engagement you may feel compromised when confronted by others in a setting that is overwhelming or you feel like you are expected to communicate to an authoritative figure. 

Most children and teens can be timid or shy in certain situations, but a child with selective mutism has extreme fears because of shyness and feeling timid. 

The behaviour patterns you might show in social settings if you have selective mutism. 

What is important to realise is that if you have this condition, you find that you are socially ethical and normal when with people you are comfortable with.  Parents and siblings will see you as social, extremely verbal, even boisterous, stubborn and funny. But it is the inability to communicate to people in certain situations where you feel inhibited to extremes of fear and anxiety. If you feel extreme fear and worry that causes you to always clam up in certain situations you may have selective mutism. If the thought of doing something causes you extreme anxiety where your heart races, you start to tremble or feel sick, these are common symptoms of an anxiety disorder like mutism. Often children and teens suffer extreme anxiety before certain social situations. You may have worries, which is natural, its if it is extreme and constant. 

A common condition of this is always having a blank face, a lack of emotion or that you never seem to smile. Many of them will have awkward and stiff body language and be very unhappy, also feel extremely uncomfortable. Some will turn their heads away, chew, become withdrawn and avoid eye contact, also shy into a corner away from the situation and then play alone. These are all things - as a parent - you should look for.  

Over the cause of time these children learn to participate and cope only in certain social settings. They will communicate and perform non-verbally or by talking in whispers. As social relationships start being built you may find that the child finds it harder and harder to bond as the grow. Children with selective mutism become isolated and alone. 

The common characteristics displayed by children and teens with selective mutism. 

Physical conditions. 

Mutism, joint pains from rigidity, vomiting and nausea, tummy ache, headaches, shortness of breath when anxiously thinking, scared and nervous feelings, diarrhea and chest pain. 


Because peers are more accepting when a child is young, the child may not be upset because at a young age they have no understanding. It is as they grow and they become socially aware that anxiety, worry and fear can set in. As the child grows towards teenage years, an inner turmoil can develop and so may develop the negative symptoms if the condition of anxiety is left untreated. 

A temperament of inhibition. 

Extremely cautious in new or unfamiliar places, timid and restrained. This is very evident when the child is still young. 

Processing delays and difficulties in sensory and communication input. 

Many children and teens have sensory processing difficulties with their SM. The main reason for this is because of being shut down due to mutism, especially when in crowded places where there are multiple stimuli. This is true for example: when in classroom or the playground at school. At this point feelings of anxiety can increase causing 'freezing' to be an action. The ultimate freeze stance is mutism. Children freeze at times, but if it happens consistently in certain locations, then mutism could be the cause. 

When a child or teen suffers from SM they may have difficulties with non-verbal body language and talking skills such as: not being able to nod or shake their head, point at something, even indicate a confirmation by word of mouth and have problems waving a hand with hello or goodbye. Sometimes it is easy for them to do all of this, it is down to certain situations that cause SM. When they are having an anxiety attack they may find it hard to initiate what they want in chat, or have playtime with peers. 

Difficulties engages in social activities. 

Engaging socially can be difficult if a child is timid or shy. When a child or teen has SM, the characteristic in emotion and feeling are more extreme and more intense. When they are confronted by a stranger - especially authoritative - they may shut-down and also avoid eye contact, then go into a withdrawal into themselves. This leaves them submissive and unable to speak to another individual or group. The mere act of greeting someone, or communicating wants and needs can be an impossibility when the anxiety symptoms occur. Shadowing their parents or an older sibling to avoid societal issues is also of concern if it has mutism involved as well. As the child develops into a teenager the shutting-down and freezing rarely continues. However, the teenagers may only respond non-verbally or after a lapse of time due to difficulties with sensory processing. 

How the body/brain barrier work in anxiousness and selective mutism. 

SM and its predisposition of anxiety is genetic and the tendencies towards these are usually an inheritance trait. More often than not, the child has signs of severe anxiety symptoms such as: moodiness; inflexibility; tantrums; unnecessary crying; sleeping problems and separation anxiety from an early age. These symptoms of anxiety disorder are a dysfunction of the body/brain barrier. 

Severely inhibited characteristics are shown in children with selective mutism via the body/brain barrier. Studies have shown that an inhibited characteristics child and teenager, will be far more likely to have an anxiety disorder, than a child that is shy. Children and teenagers with SM and an inhibited temperament, have the threshold of excitatory, in the area of the brain known as the amygdala decreased. The sympathetic nerve sends signals of danger to the amygdala's left-hand-side where thoughtful trauma and images, extend from these two nerves of the body/brain barrier. This is due to the vitamin D2 and this is in many fortified foods like cereals. Prolactin products can help such as milk from most diary giving animals. 

Prolactin helps elevate the parasympathetic nerve of, 'rest and digest' in the brain where a relaxed body language of emotions and feelings exist, when combined with the right-hand-side of the amygdala nerve. Where the nerves rest in this position the sympathetic nerve is relative to, ‘disassociation’. 

When confronted with a scenario of fearfulness, vitamin D2 enters the left-hand-side of the amygdala, from the sympathetic nerve. This causes anxiety and freezing in fear and terror from the term known as, 'flight'. That is instead of the sympathetic nerve giving 'disassociation' to the amygdala and its left-hand-side. The right side of the amygdala - should switch on - because this is the, ‘action’ centre of the body/brain barrier of responsiveness and negotiation that gets its, ‘action’ from the sympathetic nerve of, ‘fight’. 

There are methods for alleviating the stresses caused in children and teenagers due to anxiety disorders. That anxiety is in the left-hand-side of the amygdala. Interrupting those emotional and thoughtful stresses is by: 

  • In self-therapy that children learn in therapy groups and counselling is to close your eyes or keep them open – as suits you in the moment – and distract yourself with positive thoughts using the left-hand-side of the amygdala for positivism and using the sympathetic nerve for ‘fight’. 

  • Training can also be used to strengthen the mind against anxious emotions and stressful thoughts, by training yourself into a more positive thoughtful attitude using these three areas of the brain. 

  • They are taught things to say out loud to themselves like, 'Now stop this, it is just my mind’s overactive left-hand amygdala. 

  • These ideas are called mindfulness (more later). 

Here is some advice to parents on how to help a child and teen to evade their psychological trauma cycle of anxiety. 

Don't dismiss their feelings. 

If you tell your child not to worry about their fears may make them feel like they are doing wrong when they are feeling anxious. Let them know that it is okay to feel worry about something. But, also encourage them to share their fearful and worrisome thoughts and emotions. 

Always listen to them when they want to talk about it. 

When something is worrying or causing anxiety it is always comforting to have someone to listen to you. Do the same thing for your child. Try to coax them to open up to the feelings inside and the way it makes them feel. If they are not feeling talkative, let them know you are there for them. In this way you can open your child to discussion about the anxiety problems they have. Make sure when they are not talkative to give them a cuddle or sit close to them to comfort them. 

Help them by offering distraction and comfort. 

Try doing the things they enjoy doing, like a cuddle in your lap and reading to them to distract them. Just like when they were younger. If not reading then a discussion about their schooling or a game they like playing. 

When it really comes down to it, a 10 year old will still feel comfort in some TLC from a parent when they are feeling anxious. 

Try getting them outside. 

Exercise can boost the mood by releasing the feel-good factor neurotransmitter of endorphins. So, give them something active to do. Taking them for a walk to the shops, or local play area, or playing ball in the garden may be just what's needed, to lift those endorphin chemicals in the brain. 

Keep to a routine with them. 

Balance any changes by keeping to and maintaining as much as possible of their regular routine. Changes can cause stress and that can bring on worry. Trying keeping to regular eating and bedtime routines as well. 

If they are not getting enough sleep or eating a well-balanced nutritious meal at regular intervals, this can cause your child to become stressed. If they feel good inside, then they are more, better equipped to go through any worries or stresses that are bothering them. 

Overscheduling with activities! 

A list of extracurricular activities can be endless. However, having too many group activities can cause a stressful overload and cause an anxiety overload in children. Just as adults need time to relax after work, so a child needs this after schooling. Children also need time alone, but tell them you are in the house should you be needed. 

Try limiting their exposure to upsetting scenes and chat. 

If your child hears of or sees disturbing images on television, radio or from chat, talk to your child about what is happening. In this way they can learn to share their emotions and feelings about stressful issues. You can also discuss the general topics involved like aide from humanitarian groups. 

Consult someone about those bothersome subjects. 

If you have suspicions that a change in the family such as a divorce, house move, a new sibling or even a death in the family discuss it with someone. That may be a trained child therapist, teacher or school counsellor or your GP. Someone like these will be able to suggest ways to help a child discuss the issues to you with the advice they give. These subjects can cause children confusion and worry that can lead to anxiety. 

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