Selective mutism?

Discussion in 'Mental Health' started by gEo_tehaD_returns, Mar 19, 2008.

  1. gEo_tehaD_returns

    gEo_tehaD_returns Senior Member

    I've been struggling with sever social anxiety for. . . well, forever. Well, I guess I've only been STRUGGLING for the past few years - before that I was kind of in a fantasy land telling myself I was normal and just a bit shy and that I wouldn't be prevented from acheiving anything anyone else would normally expect to acheive in life. Now I'm twenty one years old and can only have anything resembling casual conversation with close friends.

    I can say the bare minimum of what needs to be said to people I don't know well as long as they aren't women about my age - for instance, I can say "hello" and "thank you" to the clerk at a grocery store when i'm buying something. I can sometimes communicate adequately with girls when absolutely necessary - if I'm paired up with a random girl in class and I'm lucky enough to be able to think halfway straight in the situation I can say waht needs to be said - and only that. Though I've told myself many times that I NEED to try to talk to a girl, it just doesn't happen, and can't. I'll be working with one or sitting next to one in class, and get the idea to just try to start a casual conversation, but I don't know what to say. The words aren't there. That place in my mind that supplies the words when I'm talking to somebody familar is utterly empty when talking to somebody I don't know very well. Its even getting to the point where I feel awkward having conversations with my roomates who I would consider my friends. I'll start talking with one, then after a few exchanges I'll get that awkward feeling and an overwhelming desire to just end the conversation and get away from the person.

    Life has gotten progressively worse over the past few years. I started getting pulled from my fantasy land in my second year of college when I realized I had never had a girlfriend and all of the girls I would meet through facebook and try to hang out with would "mysteriously" (I thought it was mysterious at the time because I was bilssfully ignorant of my own condition) lose interest in me very quickly when I couldn't even begin to have any conversation with them. I'd just sit there while they talked, not make eye contact and saying nothing unless they asked a question, to which I'd usually respond with one or two word answers.

    My dad emailed me a few days ago about a condition called 'selective mutism' - he knows I'm having social and depression troubles and I guess he just recently came accross this. He says the symptoms fit perfectly with my behavior as a child - being active and talkative (perhaps even excessively so) at home (most of the time) but completely silent in school or any other public place. It is often misunderstood by others to be stubborn, rude or cold behavior. It's a subconsious block of speech that overrides even compelling reasons to speak - for instance, children who are offered toys if they speak, or threatened with punishments if they don't, will continue to remain silent just the same. I can remember being yelled at by my father as a child and becoming completely unresponsive, at which point he'd demand that I talk or face consequences. I chose consequences (which usually involved more yelling and getting grounded for an excessive period of time)

    Selective mutism is supposed to be treated early. However my parents thought I was just "shy" and that the way I acted wasn't too terribly abnormal. Thus I've reached the age of 21 without any treatment whatsoever. The problem is Selective mutism creates social phobia and development problems that become ingrained in the personality if it isn't treated promptly - like 15 years ago in my case.

    I've just started talking to a psychologist at the University I'm attending because I was becoming horribly depressed. All I could think about was how I would never be able to interract normally and, what really got me down, how I would never be able to spend time with a girl outside of chance situations (for instance working in the same area as one at work or being paired with one in a classroom task) in which the interaction would be meaningless and minimal on my part. I stopped being able to feel emotions beyond anger and fear - a third of the time I would be seething with anger at my peers who wouldn't accept me and couldn't care less that I was left out entirely, another third of the time I would get this overwhelming sensation of terror or impending doom that seemed to have no particular origin - and the rest of the time I was just in this blank state where I could do nothing but stare at a wall and just kind of "detatch" - its about as close as you could get to being unconcsious with your eyes still open and muscles still functioning to keep you upright.

    The psychiatrist tried to put me on SSRI antidepressants but the side effects were monstrous - chest pains, panic attacks, fainting, severe anxiety (again, seemed to be an extreme fear of either nothing in particular or that the medication was killing me), vomitting, etc. He switched me to Bupropion (generic Wellbutrin) which works on Dopamine and Norepiniphrine instead of seratonin and it seemed to help with the depression. I would even say it has given me a little bit more confidence - but the difference is like taking a cup of sand out of the beach. I'm still socially inept and an embarrassment to myself in any situation in which I'm expected to interact socially, and I can already feel this fact slowly overriding the antidepressant effects of the medication.

    It all seems pretty hopeless. Talking to the psychologist and allowing the psychiatrist to put me on medication was my last hope - I had taken a firm stance that I would never take medication up until a couple months ago when I realized I was good as dead and had tried everything else I could come up with. I don't feel like talking to the psychologist is helping me much - I do like and respect the guy and even believe he's good at what he's doing - but he's not really telling me anything I don't already know or giving me any suggestions I haven't already tried. Maybe he and the meds need more time to work, but so far the results are pretty discouraging.

    Is anyone else in this or a similar utterly hopeless social situation?
  2. Joey*

    Joey* Freaky Supportr Dude

    I know what you're going through,I have severe social anxiety.I've tried most everything (except for shock theraphy,which had been recommended lol)I try to live with my social anxiety.I've realized that most people I don't want to talk to anyway.The feelings you described are exactly what I go through.I do get feelings when I do find someone I like,I feel it in my gut.Good feelings.It can't be so terrible since that's how I felt when I first meet my gf.This feeling I'm talking about does'nt always help to talk to people but I believe in time it will help.It may sound like nonsense but the more I accept myself and my social anxiety the better things are for me.There may never be a cure.I don't panic about it as much anymore I just know it's a handicap I deal with and do my best.It's like if someone had cancer or diabetes or they were a recovering alchoholic.Unfortunately it's a challenge they have to deal with.I have a girlfriend now and a few friends and I talk their damn ears off,but I'm like silent when I deal with others mostly.I have tried from time to time to casually talk to other people,whom ever and it does'nt usually go well for me.That's incredibly frustrating it's terrible and one bad interaction could bother me for weeks.I've accepted that my world maybe alot smaller than I wanted and planned.I'm getting more and more comfortable with that.There was a time I was quite social but that time is gone.Try to do what you can I'm on meds too and see a therapist.I try to understand my social anxiety myself being calm and accepting.Maybe you're going through some changes you don't understand yet,maybe you are somewhat different than the mainstream people out there,try not to panic.That will make you feel worse.
    Hang in there,I don't know your future (of course lol)but for me I know I can find happiness even with my problems,that's how I got this far.It may not be as far as I wished,the process takes time.Patience has been key and accepting myself completely.I am still suffering with this and I may all my life,but I won't let it destroy my happiness,even if my life is screwed up.I'm a good person and I'm determined to be happy.
    Hang in there,It will get better if you let it sometimes you've gotta start at square one.You're not alone similiar things happen to all types of people.
    Good luck,and let us know how it's going.
  3. treehuggerT

    treehuggerT Member

    I think this might be more common than you think. Look down the page a bit. There is a thread on this same topic that was started a few days ago. I don't have any advice for you, but want to wish you well. Keep working on it; that's the only way you'll get better.

  4. Joey*

    Joey* Freaky Supportr Dude

    There was a thread a few days ago bout this too like treehuggerT said see if you can find it that might help.Apparently there are alot of us out there going through the same thing. Hang in there,...
  5. snail

    snail Member

    Hey there, i was the one who made the thread about this a little bit ago. I know what you're going through man, and I would love to try and help you but.. I haven't really been able to help myself. I have found that I've progressed over time.. it's still really hard though. I believe that we will learn how to deal with this in time.
  6. gEo_tehaD_returns

    gEo_tehaD_returns Senior Member

    Wow. . . I think I'm losing it
  7. gaiabee

    gaiabee Member

    Based on this I would say you do NOT have selective mutism... but this does not undermine your experience. It is a very rare disorder and the individuals who have it do not speak AT ALL in certain contexts (like at school)... even if it IS absolutely necessary.

    We live in a society where we are conditioned to think that we all have to be perfect people. Commercials ask us "do you ever feel nervous in social situations?" (um... who doesn't?)... contending that if we answer "yes" we need a pill to fix it . Sure, you are probably socially awkward. Why not accept that aspect of your personality? You are a socially awkward person... big deal. Maybe you wish you could open up more? So try practicing sharing a little bit more with the close friends you mentioned instead of suddenly trying to force yourself to talk to a girl you barely know and then end up beating up on yourself because you failed. Take it slow!

    I'm sorry if this is coming out wrong... I'm not trying to minimize your suffering... Ug. It just makes me mad that you're immediately being prescribed drugs when what you really need is to accept yourself and make positive changes to feel more confident about who you are. For instance, a drug won't improve your ability to make eye contact... but feeling better about yourself and practicing eye contact will (some people really just don't know how to make appropriate eye contact without feeling awkward - things that come natural for some people, like how long to hold the eye contact before it feels "weird", may need to be taught to others who simply don't know how naturally).

    You said you were okay with yourself until you started comparing yourself to other people... but you are NOT other people. You're walking a different path. Stop comparing yourself to others and go back to feeling okay about yourself :) You have friends, you're in school, you're functioning... so you're okay. Follow your own little socially awkward path and who knows? You may meet up with another socially awkward girl along the way.
  8. gEo_tehaD_returns

    gEo_tehaD_returns Senior Member

    I thank you for your input and advice and appreciate you trying to help. However I think you have kind of misunderstood my situation.

    Nowadays I may or may not be understood to have selective mutism. I don't know for sure cause I haven't had a doctor confirm or deny it; the psychologist and psychiatrist I'm seeing now don't seem to know much of anything about selective mutism and certainly couldn't diagnose it. I am pretty certain however that it would have been hard to deny I had the condition as a child. I didn't speak in many situations, as I remember most severely when I was in trouble for something. If anyone would speak to me in a reprimanding tone my brain would just go numb and all I could do is stare blankly at whoever was yelling at me, teacher or parent. I had the vague idea that I should be saying something to keep myself from getting into more trouble but the part of my brain responsible for doing so was just completely offline. I also tended to be silent around unfamiliar adults. If ever I was in a situation where one addressed me or I was expected to speak to one I would stare at the ground and say nothing. As I mentioned in my first post, my father was the one who brought selective mutism to my attention; he says that the articles he's read about it seemed to clear things up that baffled him when I was a child. Like i suddenly made a lot more sense to him.

    As for how I am today. . . things honestly aren't much better, and in fact are probably worse in some ways. One thing that really gets me is I can't address anyone who isn't a very close friend by name or any other title, and its next to impossible for me to acknowledge them unless they say something to me first. I don't understand why. I usually find myself looking anywhere but at the person in hopes they'll think I didn't notice them so that they'll either speak first or say nothing at all. I can get out a generic "hey" or "what's up" and thats all.

    At work I will always stand awkwardly, nervously drum random rhythms on the counter when there aren't any customers around, walk into the back to take a sip of soda, do ANYTHING I can to not acknowledge or involve myself with any other people I am working with. When one of them occasionally says something to me I can squeeze out a simple reply, sometimes one that doesn't even reflect the way I really feel because its quicker and easier to get out than my real feelings about whatever is being discussed - usually my mental faculties are too screwy in such nervous situations to even be able to assemble the sentences that would explain my view. I just say SOMETHING so as not to be the way I was as a child and just flat out pretend I didn't hear them, then retract myself from the conversation as quick as possible. The whole time I can see that what I'm doing is not helping my situation at all, and that I should perhaps try to involve myself in the conversation more. I'm never able to.

    You say selective mutism is very rare. . . well first of all its not ALL THAT rare, I think it was originally estimated to be about 1/1000 that have it, but that ratio keeps growing as awareness of the condition increases, and you also have to factor in the fact the cases of selective mutism go unreported because the parents don't even know that the child has a problem - which is all too common with this as most parents think their child is just being stubborn and resistant when they become silent.

    Also, I can't think of a single person who is as socially incapacitated as I am. And thats saying a lot because all of my close friends are shy people. One of my friends who doesn't have social problems (and who I'm hanging out with less and less because I even have problems communicating with him and am getting tired of listening to him talk on and on and on about mundane crap while I have to pretend to be interested the entire time) - anyway, his brother once asked him if I "am retarded or something" because of my complete lack of ability to act in a normal, socially acceptable way - I did not acknowledge the guy when I was at my friend's place, ever, and acted very awkward and avoidant if, for instance, I was in the living room with him while my friend was in the bathroom or something. I also overheard a couple of people at work talking about me; one was asking if I was autistic. That doesn't happen to someone with just "normal social anxieties."

    I'm sorry all my posts are so damn long. Maybe I'm making up for all the talking I don't do. . .
  9. gaiabee

    gaiabee Member

    okay, so based on what you are now saying... perhaps you did have selective mutism as a child, perhaps you didn't. If having that label brings more understanding to who you are as a person than that's fine... otherwise, don't focus on it because you HAVE come away from the way you were as a child... even if it's in very small ways. There's no way to know how you would have turned out if it was treated and you likely wouldn't have gone from Clark Kent to Superman... the anxiety would always be there. What's treated for children with selective mutism (if treated appropriately) is how to cope with the anxiety and being rewarded for small steps towards talking.

    But I wonder.... what do you want? How do you want to be? How do you picture yourself ideally acting in social situations? Do you actually WANT to be friends with certain people that are more socially adept (such as the one friend you're moving away from) or is there something about these people that don't interest you. Shy, introverted and anxious people are often very sensitive... and they require LESS stimulation than the average person because they are in a constant state of hypersensitivity (for instance, you probably hear, feel, sense, better than the average person). So being around a person who is extroverted could be stressful for an introverted person. Extroverted people require MORE stimulation because they are not hypersensitive. This is why they're the people that tend to enjoy things like bungee jumping, while someone like you probably has no interest. You're naturally in a constant state of arousal so you don't need to jump off bridges to achieve that.

    So you are friends with shy people and you're the most socially incapacitated of them all. You're probably the most sensitive of them all as well. The fact that you DO have friends says that you must be a pretty special person... because no matter how socially inept you are there are STILL people who don't mind hanging around you :)

    Rather than wasting energy trying to change who you are, try to focus on making a life for yourself that will allow you to BE who you are. So you'll never be a trial lawyer or a news reporter, but perhaps you'd enjoy a low key, low stress job with little social interaction like an accountant or something to do with computers (just examples here... obviously you know what you're interested in). You seem like an intelligent person. You write your thoughts out well. I think you have more strengths than you allow yourself to think you have. You keep focusing on these weaknesses. And by the way... I DO know someone who is more socially awkward than you. He has 0 friends and never worked a job and I'm so sad for him. There are worse out there. Believe me.
  10. ReeferMadness

    ReeferMadness Member

    ive been roaming hipforums for long long time but when i stumbled across this i just felt need to post. While reading your first post i got through a paragraph or 2 when I had to check the name of person who posted it in fear it was my own without realizing it. Pretty much everything you said is what has happened/happening to me. It is almost as if we are same as weird as that sounds haha. Except that I have never talked to anyone about it before not even my parents.

    However I am doing fine now and much better off. What worked for me I wouldn't necessarily recommend for just anybody because it is illegal but it did work. I tried ecstasy and the first time was absolutely the best day of my life. I don't really want to get into it to much but basically it was as if this selective mutism as you call it disappeared. Like a new body and new me without this selective mutism shell that covered me. I was able to feel all the emotions like everyone else who I would consider normal and have normal conversations. From that experience I tried to mimic the effects it gave me without actually taking ecstasy. I remember ever second of my first roll and with those feelings and emotions its as if I unlocked those and can now use them.

    I also just always try and stay positive cause I found a lot of my thoughts in my head were always negative so sometimes I just keep reminding myself of positive thoughts. I also started to learn how to appreciate life and everything around especially the people who you are around and close to. It has helped me a lot and makes everyday easier to make it through.
  11. born2lose1

    born2lose1 Member

  12. gEo_tehaD_returns

    gEo_tehaD_returns Senior Member

    Xanax - I hoped it wouldn't come to that. I'd be just as well off getting drunk every day I think.

    Then again the antidepressant they have me on now (wellbutrin) isn't all that different from cocaine or any other stimulant.
  13. Psychadelik

    Psychadelik Member

    I understand completely how you feel...I'm in the same boat, except I can't go to a psychologist to talk because my mother doesn't believe in it (I'm in college and under her insurance so I deal)...I'm so horrible that I don't even look at people in the head is always 'bowed down' when in the presence of others. I can't stop...and it's getting worse. I tried to say an answer in class when the teacher called on me and had an anxiety attack. Contrary to my mom's belief, it's not just's effecting my daily life. :(
  14. Hey man thanks for pointing this out, I think this is what I have instead of all that other bullshit.

    The thing about you saying that kids can be excessivley talkative at home and then extremley shy at school is EXACTLY how I am.

    But I havent gone to a doctor about this stuff.

    I've learned to deal with it though, I watched the movie Scarface and then I thought "now that guys fucking cool" not because of the drugs and money but because of his attitude and the way he presents himself. I have the same thing as you and I've managed to take over an entire high school and have people work for me.
  15. snail

    snail Member

    I have been reading this book called, The Power of Now. And I know it won't work for everyone, but living in the NOW is exactly what I needed. I suggest checking out this book, The Power of Now by [size=-1]Eckhart Tolle. It's already helped me a lot.
  16. gaiabee

    gaiabee Member

    check if your college has a counseling center... it's probably free and your mom would never find out since it's completely confidential.
  17. gEo_tehaD_returns

    gEo_tehaD_returns Senior Member


    Your mom is wrong. I dont' know how else to put it. thats a really fucking lame excuse to not get you help for this problem. I know exactly what you mean and to think that your parent(s) would just refuse to get you any kind of help because they "don't believe in it" pisses me off. My parents seemed disappointed and surprised at first, kind of an attitude that counseling/therapy is only for really screwed up people, and surely our son can't be really screwed up; and if we let him get counseling/therapy it would mean that he WAS really screwed up. However my parents also thankfully are sensitive to my needs and they realized after I explained my problems enough. .. well, they basically realized I WAS kind of screwed up and needed the help.

    As for gaiabee's suggestion. . . its not necessarily true that your mother won'tk now about you getting psychological help from the university. I know at the college I"m at they add everything you do that costs money and that you don't pay for upfront to a special bill that gets sent home and details everything you got billed for. Now if you pay for your own college expenses I guess that wouldn't matter, but from what you've said it sounds like your mom is probably significantly involved in that sort of thing. Maybe your university is different though. I'd certainly say you should at least stop by any psychological services type place they have around there and at least see where bills would be sent and how that would work out if you decided to get help.

    And don't expect them to get rid of your problems right away. I've talked to the psychologist about 5-6 times now and been cycled through a few different medications by the psychiatrist and haven't really made any kind of measurable progress. .. yet. I'm hearing that it will probably take a LONG time to get over this, years probably, and while thats pretty depressing my choices are essentially to either stick it out or die. It's hard, its not fun, its painful, but I hope to god it will be worth it.
  18. owlchemist

    owlchemist Member

    Thats pretty sound advice, but if you do it MAKE SURE its with someone you trust. I cant stress this enough.

    If thers the slightest bit of doubt, then please please DONT DO IT.
  19. gEo_tehaD_returns

    gEo_tehaD_returns Senior Member

    Oh yeah, about the ecstay thing. . . I have never tried it, but I've used various psychedelics - Mushrooms, LSD, DXM (I'm not proud of that one), and lots of salvia. I've had similar feelings after mushrooms and salvia - like things were clear and made sense and I had no reason to be so quiet or depressed. But in practice they made no difference - I was still just as shy and the feeling would wear off after a day or two. I think this thing is far too ingrained in my head to just get rid of by tripping on ecstasy or anything else. Actually I think it happened last summer when I had deluded myself into believing some girl I had met was interested in me and that something would happen with her one too many times. I became really, really depressed and in a way I hadn't ever before - it was like I really realized that time that no girl would ever like me. I'd had those thoughts before but there was always a part of me that refused to believe it, even if only because realizing that would be such a horrible thing. But I was finally forced to confront it, and I think it killed that part of me that would try to believe I would not be alone forever.

    Now even when I try to make myself optimistic about this my brain will have none of it. It has learned the truth, my subconscious is thouroughly convinced that I have no chance. There's nothing I can do about it. I swear people can sense that some essential part is missing from me too. I used to get looks from girls fairly often, sometimes they would even approach ME - then they'd realize how socially incompetent I was and lose interest completely. But that has not happened since the summer (girls looking at or acknowleging me I mean). That was basically my sole source of confidence, and its gone, and I don't know why. I'm not superstitious but I swear its like I have an aura that died and rotted over the summer and won't ever come back, and it repels people.

    I just can't possibly believe I have any chance of getting past this anymore. And you might say thats the problem, but up until about a year ago I DEPENDED on it. I took it for granted that I would get over the problem. Its only gotten worse instead, and continues to do so.

    I don't think talking to the psychologist is helping me at all.

    The antidepressants stopped doing much of anything after about a month.

    What the hell am I supposed to do?
  20. gEo_tehaD_returns

    gEo_tehaD_returns Senior Member

    The more I think about it the more inclined I am to want to try born2lose's suggestion - Xanax. I know I said I might as well drink every day, but come to think of it, I've only ever been able to get away from this problem when drunk. Unfortunately I think my psychiatrist will try every antidepressant out there before he'll give me benzodiazepines - including stuff like MAOIs.

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