Stuttering and Anxiety | Causes | Symptoms | Treatments

Girl holding fingers over her lips saying shhh(implied).

Stuttering is a common speech disorder that is often associated with anxiety. According to the Stuttering Foundation, 70 million people worldwide stutter when they speak. Stuttering can make it more difficult to handle social situations, especially for those speaking publicly with social anxiety. This article will explain the causes, symptoms, and available treatments of stuttering. Stuttering occurs in children and adults but is more common in children.

In this moment and time, the medical community categorizes stuttering as a mental health disorder, similar to bipolar or ADHD. Stuttering is also categorized as a speech and fluency disorder. People are more likely to stutter when speaking under some kind of social pressure: a stressful job interview, court testimony, speaking to the police over the phone. 

Stuttering is common in children just learning how to speak. Also, there is about a 5:1 boy-girl ratio for stuttering. The results of a brain imaging study can help explain more why men stutter at a higher rate than women. When stuttering persists into adulthood, that’s a signal that some kind of professional help may be needed. Most children simply grow out of stuttering, this speech and fluency disorder affects less than 1% of adults.

Research from the Stuttering Foundation shows that stuttering is the result of problems with circuits in the brain, but doesn’t know where the exact issue occurs. The earmark of stuttering is the repetition of select sounds, syllables, or words. The stuttering disorder is a broad spectrum, ranging from mild to severe. 

Mild Stuttering

Example of mild stuttering

This is an example of a person with a mild stutter — Louisiana based rapper “Boosie”. Some people have a stutter that is barely noticeable. People with a mild stutter may occasionally repeat or mispronounce certain words and syllables, yet still, carry on a relatively fluent conversation.

Moderate Stuttering

Example of moderate stuttering

Most people who stutter, fall somewhere along the middle. They tend to feel anxious about speaking, and others may notice their speech is unconventional but still understand what the communicator is saying.

Severe Stuttering

Example of severe stuttering

The minority of adults have a truly severe stuttering disorder. Severe stuttering tends to affect young children still developing their language skills. A severe studdering disorder makes it extremely difficult to communicate thoughts and ideas to others and be understood.

Cause


Developmental stuttering

The most common type of stuttering is called developmental stuttering. This type of stuttering is more common in young children who are learning to speak, usually from ages 2-6. Developmental stuttering usually goes away without medical treatment, while 5-10% of children stutter, 75% of them end up outgrowing it. 

Anxiety may aggravate your stuttering. The speech of stuttering improves after speaking for long periods of time. After atcouple of sentences are spoken many people who stutter can into a rhythm and begin to stutter less.

The exact cause of developmental stuttering hasn’t been fully discovered. Although, researchers show a genetic link(runs in families) to stuttering, even though the exact causes and triggers of developmental stuttering are not completely known.

Neurogenic stuttering

The neurogenic stuttering disorder is caused by injury, disease, or abnormal tissue development. A stroke or traumatic brain injury can cause neurogenic stuttering. Anxiety can make aggravate neurogenic stuttering, but it’s closely related to developmental stuttering.

Treatment


Speech Therapy

Speech therapy can teach people coping techniques to help manage their stuttering:

  • Help realize when you stutter
  • Slow down talking speed
  • Work on a fluid talking pattern
  • Coping Techniques when stuttering increases 

Research from Trina University suggests that speech therapy is the best treatment for stuttering adults.

Anxiety Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Anxiety CBT is a problem-oriented therapy that is focused on helping its target reach their desired goals. CBT helps people learn how to question, and change their thinking patterns, and attitudes, to help manage their emotional and behavioral reactions to difficulty.

CBT for stuttering can include methods like one on one communication sessions, help challenging negative thots, exercises to help extend sound lengths.


CBT can help you create positive changes in situations related to stuttering and lower the amount of stuttering related to anxiety. Online-therapy provides a CBT based speech anxiety online therapy program that will provide you with insightful knowledge about glossophobia (speech anxiety) as well as how to control your anxiety. Your therapist will teach you techniques like cognitive restructuring (changing what your brain says to you),

Electronic Devices

Electronic devices help enhance fluency. There are various types of electronic devices to help improve fluency. Delayed auditory feedback(DAF) devices force you to slow down your speech, or else it sounds distorted through the machine. 

Frequency Altered Feedback(FAF) devices provide audio feedback but shift the vocals to a higher or lower pitch. Research shows FAF feedback can lower stuttering by 50%. Ask a speech pathologist with guidance on choosing a device.

Diagnosis


A speech language pathologist can help diagnose stuttering for children and adults without invasive testing. A typical diagnosis involves questions and a reading evaluation.

Children who Stutter

Here’s a list of things parents with young children who stutter can expect from their doctor or speech-language pathologist.

Questions to expect from a speech-language pathologist:

  • Health History
  • Age when stuttering began
  • Frequency of stuttering
  • Times when stuttering is frequent
  • Affect of stuttering: life, relationships, school performance

Your child will be spoken to and asked to read text out loud to watch for small changes in speech patterns. During the reading process, they will be gauged on which words they mispronounce and repeat, to help figure out how likely the stuttering is to develop into adulthood. Other conditions with similar symptoms will be ruled out such as Tourettes.

Adults who stutter

Adults with a stuttering disorder can expect a variety of questions for a diagnosis from a speech language pathologist.

Questions to expect from a speech-language pathologist:

  • Health History
  • Any underlying health conditions that can contribute to stuttering
  • Age when stuttering began
  • Frequency of stuttering
  • Times when stuttering is frequent
  • Affect of stuttering: life, career, stress levels, relationships, school performance
  • Treatments you’ve had in the past

Recommended:

  • 8 Steps to Acing an Interview with SOcial Anxiety
  • 8 Tips: Approaching Romantic Interests With Social Anxiety
  • 11 Rules for Public Speaking with Social Anxiety
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