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Selective Mutism Causes

(Also Known As: Selective Mute Causes, Mutism Causes, Elective Mutism Causes)

(Reviewed by: Paul Peterson, Licensed Therapist)

What causes Selective Mutism?

Biological factors:

  • Delayed onset of speech or speech abnormalities - may be contributory to onset of SM in some children. 4
  • Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID) – A condition which causes the child to have trouble processing some sensory information. For this reason, a child may suffer from anxiety, which may in turn cause the child to shut down and not be able to speak. 5
  • Poor auditory processing – Impairment of hearing causes the child to ineffectively speak and thus communicate poorly.

Environmental factors:

  • Social phobia and social anxiety - Most children with selective mutism have an inherited predisposition to anxiety. These individuals often have inhibited temperaments, which are believed to be due to over-excitability of a particular area of the brain called the amygdala. This area receives indications of possible threats and sets off the fight-or-flight response. 6 Additionally, these children manifest high levels of social anxiety without prominent psychopathology condition, thus ruling out SM as a specific disorder but rather, as a subtype of social phobia.
  • One third of the selective mutism population manifests speech or language disorders which consequently add stress to situations in which the child is expected to speak. In the same way, children coming from bilingual families and have lived in a foreign country, or have been exposed to a foreign language during young childhood develop insecurity with the language they are expected to speak. In both these situations, the children have inhibited temperaments, but the stress caused by their language difficulties cause them to become anxious enough about speaking to become mute. 7
  • Emotional or physical trauma – Some children are predisposed to SM after experiencing an emotional distress or a physical injury, although some physicians may refer to this condition as traumatic mutism rather than selective mutism. 8
  • However, there is no specific evidence that children with selective mutism have suffered abuse, neglect, or trauma although these factors cannot be ruled out. 9

Could You Have Selective Mutism?

Selective Mutism Topics

Related Conditions

Anxiety Disorder NOS – Irrational Fears, Anxiety, Phobia, Depression, Stress
Reactive Attachment Disorder – Inappropriate Ways to Relate Socially, Failure to Form Normal Attachment to Caregivers During Childhood
Separation Anxiety Disorder – Anxiety From Separation to a Care Giver, Strong Emotional Attachment
Social Anxiety Disorder – Social Phobia, Distressed, Depression, Anxious, Chronic Fear, Panic Attack, Intense Fear and Anxiety