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Med Travelers - December 2019

Selective Mutism and Anxiety

Aimee Kotrba, PhD

June 1, 2015

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Question

Is selective mutism related to anxiety?

Answer

Yes.  Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder.  It is the fear of communicating.  It best conceptualizes a specific fear of communicating and would fall underneath the specific phobias.  It is very similar to social anxiety.  The only difference is that with social anxiety you have a fear of how other people perceive you whereas children with selective mutism may have that fear as well as a fear of communicating. Actually speaking is very scary and sometimes even nonverbal communication, writing or gesturing, can be anxiety provoking.  If you are working with a child with selective mutism, you would do a stair-step approach treatment. It would be specifically towards speaking with a starting point being nonverbally communicating with the teacher or gesturing.  Then, the next step might be whispering to the teacher one-on-one.  The next step might be whispering to the teacher when another student is with the child.  You are working through that hierarchy of least to most anxiety-provoking situations that causes the fear of communicating. 

Aimee Kotrba is a clinical psychologist specializing in the psychological assessment and treatment of children, couples, and families. She also offers treatment to adults and adolescents.  Aimee is a nationally-known expert and speaker on the identification and treatment of anxiety disorders, and is active speaking in the community on a variety of psychological topics.


aimee kotrba

Aimee Kotrba, PhD

A clinical psychologist specializing in the psychological assessment and treatment of children, couples, and families, Dr. Kotrba also offers treatment to adults and adolescents. Dr. Kotrba’s primary interventions include individual Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for mood and anxiety disorders, Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) for disruptive behavior disorders, and psychological assessments for learning issues, anxiety, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. She is a nationally-known expert and speaker on the identification and treatment of anxiety disorders, and is active speaking in the community on a variety of psychological topics.


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