Selective Mutism In Adults And Child: Symptoms and Treatment

Parents try their best that there should be no deficiency in the development, nutrition and upbringing of their child. After trying their best for all this, seeing the strange behavior of the child, the parents do not understand what goes on in their child’s mind.

If you also want to understand the child’s mind, then you can take the help of children’s psychology. Starhealthline will tell you what child psychology is and why it is important to understand child psychology. Just stay with us in this article till the end.

Selective mutism is a disorder in which a person feels nervous about speaking. It is a social anxiety disorder. In this, people fail to speak in certain situations, such as unable to talk to strangers, fear of outsiders etc.

In selective mutism, the person’s lack of confidence stems from the anxiety created in that situation.

This disorder occurs especially in children, but it can also occur in adults. Selective mutism can be treated, using psychotherapy and counseling to target the person’s thought process and behavior.


Selective mutism is social anxiety and a rare psychological disorder. Children can speak and understand the language but cannot express themselves in a specific social situation in front of the public. 

In selective mutism, a person has shy feelings and low self-confidence.

Selective Mutism In Adults And Child

Selective mutism is an anxiety disease in which a person cannot speak in specific social situations, such as school or with relatives. It starts during childhood and is left in adulthood.

A baby or adult with selective mutism does not refuse or choose not to speak at certain times; they cannot speak.

I had earlier shared What is Infantile Autism?: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment  I hope you read.

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What Causes selective mutism?

Research suggests that the disorder is related to social anxiety and that genetic predisposition is likely. But, like all mental disorders, there is one single cause.

  • May have an anxiety disorder
  • Hereditary
  • Pervasive developmental disorder such as autism in that child has speech and language difficulties. 
  • Psychotic disorder

Selective mutism also includes this symptom:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic disorder
  • OCD

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Symptoms of selective mutism

If you believe that child may be struggling with selective mutism, then look for the following symptoms:

  • Fear of people, shyness, and reluctance to speak between 2 and 4 years of age
  • Low self-confidence
  • Poor judgment
  • Easily irritated by noise and lights
  • Not maintaining an eye to eye contact.
  • Flat facial expression
  • Shyness

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Characteristics of selective mutism

  • Resulting in higher anxiety levels.
  • Find it difficult to maintain eye contact.
  • They tend to worry about things more than others. 
  • Consistent failure to speak in a specific social situation not due to lack of knowledge.
  • It interferes with educational, occupational, social functioning.

I also wrote an article on Early Signs Of Antisocial Behavior in Children include: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment also you can read.

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Medication may also be appropriate, especially in severe or chronic cases, or when other methods have not resulted in improvement. The choice of whether to use drugs should be made in consultation with a doctor who has experience in prescribing drugs for children.


In addition to seeking appropriate professional treatment, there are things you can do to help your child manage their condition.

Notify teachers and others who work with your child. Teachers can sometimes become frustrated or angry with children who do not speak.

Together you need to encourage your child and provide praise and rewards for positive behaviors.
Choose activities that suit their current skills.

Don’t force your child to engage in social situations or activities that demand verbal communication. Instead, choose activities that don’t involve speech, such as reading, art, or doing puzzles. Reward progress but avoid punishment.

While rewarding positive steps toward speaking up is a good thing, punishing silence is not. If your child is afraid to speak, he will not be able to overcome this fear through pressure or punishment.

Do not pressure your child. Parental acceptance and family involvement are important in treatment, but you should avoid trying to force your child to talk. Putting pressure on your child will increase their anxiety level and make it more difficult to speak up.

Focus on showing your child support and acceptance.
In general, selective mutism has a good prognosis. Unless there is another problem contributing to the condition, children usually do well in other areas and do not need to be placed in special education classes.

Treatment of selective mutism

A change of environment, e.g., Changing schools, where the child’s condition is unknown, will make the child quite comfortable.

You might find this article useful: Children’s Mental Health and Emotional Well being in Primary Schools

Give the child a more convenient space in that suffering child is conducted into a controlled environment with someone they are at ease with and can communicate gradually. Then, another person introduces the situation involving several small steps. 

Desensitization: The child can communicate via nondirect means, phone, and webchat.

Shaping: Encouraging the patient to sound, speak the words and then make the sentences like that to mold the behavior.

Drug therapy: Antidepressant, anxiolytic drugs.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is selective Mutism a form of autism?

Selective Mutism is a form of autism. Many people are confused about selective Mutism. Both are not the same, but it is a symptom of autism.

Can selective Mutism be cured?

Selective Mutism is treatable with the right choice of care. A child with Selective Mutism is treated with behavior therapy. It focuses more on speaking and learning in a new setting and interacting with new people and environments.

Is selective Mutism a disability?

Selective Mutism is not a speech, educational, or learning disability. A Selectively Mute child who displays these conditions would then have an additional and separate education need.

Selective Mutism in adults

Selective Mutism can be the symptom of severe anxiety disorder where a person cannot speak in some social situations, such as public places, in the classroom, or with relatives. 

It starts from childhood and persists into childhood.

Selective Mutism in teens

While selective Mutism (SM) is an anxiety disorder often associated with young children, teens and adults can also suffer from Selective mutism.

Selective Mutism test

  1. History taking from the parents for the child development and medical conditions.
  2. Child’s hearing screening.
  3.  Child’s lips, jaw, and tongue movements.
  4. Understanding of the child.

How to help a child with Selective Mutism

  1. Accept nonverbal communication at first. …
  2. Ask forced-choice questions and give specific praise. …
  3. Avoid mind-reading and reinforce speech, not gestures.
  4. Avoid questions at first hand.

Selective Mutism in adults test

Adults can overcome selective Mutism, although they may continue to experience the psychological and practical effects of spending years without social interaction or not reaching their academic or occupational potential.

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