The series of “quick overview” blog posts are short and easy to understand explanations of subjects written about on this blog and are published for reference, not intended necessarily as independent reading material. These are fact-focused and lack personal opinions and information. And are published to reduce the linking to third party sources, as at times there may be disagreement how trustworthy these sources are.

Understanding Selective Mutism

Selective mutism is a rare childhood anxiety disorder in which a child is unable to speak in certain social situations, despite being able to speak comfortably in other situations. Children with selective mutism may appear shy, anxious, or withdrawn, and may avoid social situations where they are expected to speak.


The symptoms of selective mutism can vary in severity and may include:

  • Refusing to speak in certain situations, such as school or social gatherings
  • Being able to speak comfortably at home or with close family members, but not with others
  • Appearing anxious or uncomfortable in social situations
  • Avoiding eye contact or physical contact with others
  • Having difficulty making friends or participating in group activities
  • Experiencing physical symptoms such as stomachaches, headaches, or sweating in social situations


Selective mutism typically develops in early childhood and is more common in girls than in boys. The exact cause of selective mutism is not known, but it is believed to be related to anxiety or a fear of negative evaluation. Children with selective mutism may also have a family history of anxiety or social phobia.


Diagnosing selective mutism can be challenging, as many children may appear shy or anxious in social situations without having selective mutism. A diagnosis of selective mutism typically requires a thorough evaluation by a mental health professional who specializes in anxiety disorders.


Treatment for selective mutism typically involves a combination of behavioral therapy and medication. Behavioral therapy may include desensitization techniques to gradually expose the child to social situations where they are expected to speak, as well as social skills training and cognitive-behavioral therapy to address anxiety and self-esteem issues. Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may also be used to help manage anxiety symptoms.


With early and appropriate treatment, many children with selective mutism can overcome their anxiety and learn to speak comfortably in social situations. However, untreated selective mutism can lead to social isolation, academic difficulties, and other mental health issues.


In conclusion, selective mutism is a complex anxiety disorder that can have a significant impact on a child’s life. Early recognition and treatment are important to help children overcome their anxiety and learn to speak comfortably in social situations. With appropriate support, children with selective mutism can go on to lead happy, successful lives.

If you suspect that your child may have selective mutism, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional to discuss the best options for diagnosis and treatment.