What is selective mutism?
Selective mutism is a childhood condition in which a child stops speaking in certain settings. It´s usually a childhood anxiety disorder.
The child can speak and understand normally but in certain settings chooses not to do so.
Parents may think that the child does not want to speak but in reality he/she is unable to do so.
This is not to be confused with mutism, in which children never speak.
What are the causes of selective mutism?
The causes of selective mutism are unknown.
It is thought that it may be related to a tendency to anxiety and inhibition, i.e. the anxiety caused by exposure to certain environments causes them to withdraw and stop talking.
It is an extreme fear, a phobia of being the centre of attention.
Symptoms that may be seen in children with this condition include:
Ability to speak in an intimate family setting.
Inability to speak in other social situations.
Fear or anxiety in front of people they do not know well.
How is selective mutism diagnosed?
To diagnose it, the history of the patient’s symptoms must be reviewed. There is no specific test.
Normally, selective mutism develops between 3 and 5 years old and may tend to disappear after that age, except in the most severe cases.
We must take into account that if the child has recently changed environment, he/she can present the same behaviour without having this condition.
For example, if the child has moved to another neighbourhood or to another country or has changed school, it is normal that the first days or weeks the child does not want to speak because he/she is not integrated or does not manage well in another language that is not his/her own, but this does not mean that he/she has selective mutism.
How to treat selective mutism?
To treat selective mutism it is necessary to involve the family and the child’s school.
Talking about how to cure selective mutism we have to say that there are medicines to treat anxiety and social phobia that can help because, as we have said before, it seems to be related to social anxiety disorders. But we cannot speak about “selective mutism cure” but about “selective mutism treatment”.
Therapy to overcome shyness and social anxiety is also essential.
This therapy may need to continue into adulthood. This will undoubtedly help the child to learn to function in society, which without help would only get worse.
The therapy consists of a gradual exposure to the situations in which the patient is unable to speak, starting with the ones that cause less anxiety and then gradually exposing him/her to more diverse situations that can generate more anxiety.
Are selective mutism and autism related?
In the case of autistic children, selective mutism disorder occurs more frequently.
Sometimes the symptoms of selective mutism can be confused with autism, but they have totally different causes.
In selective mutism the cause is a deep anxiety and in the case of autism the impossibility to speak is because they have little or no social and communication skills.
When both affections occur together, the affected person will not know how to act in certain occasions and in others, besides, he/she will have high levels of anxiety that provoke mutism in both occasions, but for different reasons.
Selective mutism in the classroom
Given that the beginning of this anxiety disorder starts to manifest at the beginning of infant school, it is important to start with an educational intervention that can prevent or palliate difficulties in the development of the pupil.
We should not minimise the symptoms or play down the importance of the manifestations of excessive shyness, thinking that they will pass with time.
On the contrary, they can lead to serious cases of total mutism, which is why educators have a fundamental role in both diagnosis and subsequent treatment.
Educators must recognise the symptoms shown by the child, such as the lack of interaction with teachers and classmates or the fact that they do not express their needs or ask for help.
Selective mutism in adults
The incidence of selective mutism in children and adolescents is very low and is even lower in adults.
The anxiety that certain situations provoke in adults, such as the fear of being judged, lead them to remain silent and flee from social interaction to another place where they feel comfortable and the anxiety disappears.
It is therefore an anxiety disorder or phobia and should be treated as such.
CBD for selective mutism
Research has shown that taking CBD can dramatically improve anxiety.
Cannabinoids promote embryonic and adult hippocampal neurogenesis and produce anxiolytic and antidepressant effects.
CBD also activates all cannabinoid receptors in the body. It creates a euphoric feeling and regulates the release of neurotransmitters that cause stress, anxiety, anger and depression.
Therefore, CBD decreases the activity of the limbic system which decreases social anxiety.
A lot of prescription drugs have many adverse side effects, however, CBD has no observable negative effects in the treatment of these anxiety disorders so it may be a great alternative to consider.
CBD for kids anxiety
Although CBD has been shown to reduce anxiety, all studies have been conducted in adults.
There is no specific evidence that CBD is effective in children.
There is only one small study from 2018 on 60 children with autism that showed that it improved anxiety in 39% of the children.
So it is too early to say that this is the definitive solution and also, in the absence of specific regulation, there may be other related problems:
- Products where it is not possible to know with certainty the amount of CBD they contain.
- Other ingredients that may not be safe.
- Impossibility of knowing the dose that should be administered to a child.
We, at Canalanza Laboratories, can only recommend buying a pure, high quality product like ours, with an olive oil base and low concentration and try it with low doses in order to be able to assess the effectiveness of the product.
Credit for images: