Facts About Selective Mutism – Gabriel

People with selective mutism are people who do not feel comfortable talking to the majority of people that they do not know extremely well. It is generally caused by a fear of public embarrassment or any other type of shyness. They think that they are being judged everywhere they go, everything they do, although they are not – and this causes this caution in talking to other people. This can happen not only with strangers, but also people seen regularly! People with selective mutism usually want to speak – they know that it is important and would only benefit them – but feel mentally restrained. This type of fear manifests mostly from ages 11-13, while the beginnings of selective mutism can happen as early as 3-6 years old although has more of an impact in the younger ages (generally around 6-), however, its impact can greatly depend on the person. In older children, it can have lesser affects as they can think a bit more deeply about what people are going to think – and realize that they are mostly just not going to judge anything. Even though many know this, they still have an internal fear, which is in the end selective mutism. 

Sometimes, children with selective mutism will speak in a few select scenarios (a more mild case), but in other cases they will very rarely speak (a very severe case), overall depending on the amount of anxiety – caused by selective mutism – that they have in social circumstances. Selective mutism is able to be passed down from generation to generation – if no parents or grandparents have ever had selective mutism, you are not as likely to have it, but if you have a family history of it, you have a much higher chance to get it. Of course, you can get selective mutism without a family history – it is just less likely. Selective mutism, however, is quite rare – only known to affect less than one percent of children in the US. It affects females slightly more than males, although this very much could be concluded simply because of research limitations and is not necessarily correct. 

What is Selective Mutism? – Milana

My trainer comes up to me. “How are you doing, Milana?” She asks. I barely whisper, “Good,” though I see her 4 times a week, sometimes more. And she’s not scary, I just can’t speak to her.

Lots of people confuse selective mutism with just plain shyness. But there is a big difference. Take Gabriel, my brother, for example. He is shy. When he went to school, at first, when people talked to him, he would just stand there. But my mom explained to him to just say ‘hi,’ and he thought ‘Ok! That’s easy,’ and suddenly he talked. My mom tried the same tactic with me… with a different outcome. It didn’t make me talk – if anything, it made me quieter. That’s because he is shy and I am selectively mute

If someone is shy, they are hesitant to speak, but will, if they are in the right setting with the right encouragment. They might just be scared to say the wrong thing or worried that they will say the wrong thing. They may be frightened, but if they feel safe they will open up. But when you are selectively mute, it’s different. You really want to speak, but can’t. You want to open up, but won’t. You want to be a part of the group, a part of the conversation, but no. You’re quiet, not because you want to, but because you have no choice. For example, one day at my barn, Bella (my friend) and Madison (my trainer) were talking about the animals that show up in their backyard. I wanted to put in about the turtle that came to my backyard a few days back, but after a few minutes, when my vocal cords still wouldn’t vibrate, we moved on. 

We figured out I had selective mutism a few years ago, when, thinking I was shy, my mom brought me to a therapist to help get some mental tools to get me to open up more. When that did not work, the therapist suggested that I might have selective mutism, and I should see a specialist. At this point, we started doing some research, and everything matched that I would have selective mutism. Actually finding out that something could define what I was feeling made me feel much better and less alone than before. Because it helps to know that other people are similar to me and that I am not alone. Finally, we saw a therapist that specialized in selective mutism, and she started helping me. That helped me a bit because she understood me, but it still did not completely help. Selective mutism is always a challenge in everyday life, and I am constantly struggling with it. 

Having selective mutism means I also have a lot of unvoiced thoughts and comments. That builds up a bunch, and sometimes it helps to write it down. That’s part of what got me to start making this. Just because I don’t say much doesn’t mean I don’t think much or feel much. Sharing it with similar beings can help a ton.