1) What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is our body’s natural response to mental agonies or stress. It is an emotion that is characterised by tensed feelings and worried thoughts. In other words, anxiety is a feeling of apprehension or fear of what is about to come, often resulting in nervousness. Anxiety is often a normal and healthy emotion.
However, when a person feels disproportionate anxiety levels on a regular basis, it might be considered as a medical condition, known as anxiety disorder. An anxiety disorder is a mental health condition that causes excessive nervousness, worry, fear and apprehension of even the insignificant things in day-to-day lives. For example, it’s normal for a person to feel a bit nervous before going on a job interview. However, if the interview causes extreme nervousness and fear of getting rejected, to the extent of causing some sleepless nights, then that may be termed as an anxiety disorder.
2) What is Stuttering?
Stuttering is a communication disorder that affects the flow of speech, and is characterised by broken words or phrases, primarily caused by repetitions and/or prolongations of sounds, or even unusual stoppages of entire sounds and syllables. A stammering person may show abnormal facial and body movements that are associated with the efforts made to speak out. In severe cases, a stuttering person might also try to make gestures while trying to speak as a substitute for verbal communication, especially when no sounds come out.
3) Why Anxiety Occurs Due to Stuttering?
While, according to the psychologists, stuttering can be caused due to anxiety, it might also be the other way round. People who stammer become conscious about their speech all the time, and hence grow socially anxious. Gradually, they start fearing public speaking, and they have the constant fear that their speech problems can let them down at school, at college or even at the workplace. Therefore, this, in a way, makes stammering a cause of anxiety, stress and fear of failure in various fields of life. Also, neither is stuttering a mental health diagnosis nor is anxiety the primary cause of it. Anxiety can only make stuttering worse.
The common reasons that cause anxiety as a result of stammering are –
- When a person gets stuck in the middle of speech, he/she tries to speak fast, which causes anxiety.
- When people laugh at somebody’s stuttering, he/she becomes more anxious.
- As a result, an inferiority complex works in a stuttering person, which leads to greater anxiety problems.
- Stuttering creates performance anxiety or ‘Stage fright’, due to which the person worries about failing even before beginning a task.
- Stuttering leads to escape and avoidance behaviour, which further causes anxiety.
- Stuttering happens more while talking to strangers – a phenomenon that is known as stranger anxiety.
- In some people, stuttering leads to frustration and depression, which later on gets converted into anxiety as well.
4) Signs and Symptoms
Anxiety disorders can be treated and controlled with proper help and guidance from a medical professional. However, a proper assessment and treatment of anxiety disorders start from the identification of its signs and symptoms. The typical red flags of anxiety disorders are –
- Excessive worrying, even on less important matters
- Feeling agitated
- Difficulty concentrating
- Panic attacks
- Tense muscles
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep or even insomnia
- Social isolation, that is, avoiding all social situations
- Irrational fears, like animal phobias, blood-injection-injury phobias, Natural environment phobias and situational phobias.
A speech therapist along with a psychologist will analyse the underlying causes of stuttering and its related anxiety disorders. Some of the assessment areas of stuttering include –
- Language skills
- Verbal Flucency Test
- Proper case history
- Situational Analysis
- HAM SCORE
- Personality test ( if needed)
- The social environment one is growing up in.
Depending upon the area where the problem lies, the speech therapist along with psychologist will decide upon a treatment method for stammering as well as for anxiety, like counselling , cognitive behaviour therapy or psycho therapy so the associated anxiety with stammering can be solved as early as possible.
In most of the cases when stammering reduced with speech therapy automatically anxiety goes off.
6) Treatment Protocol
To address your anxiety disorders, you need to take care of stuttering problems first. There are many programmes on online speech therapy for stuttering, done by licensed speech-language pathologists (SLPs), who can apply various online stuttering therapy techniques and exercises, like –
- Slowing down your rate of speech ( Fluency Shaping programme)
- Practising to speak regularly with close ones who won’t judge or bully you.
- Speaking loudly, and if possible, in front of the mirror
- Trying mindfulness
- Breathing Exercises
- To control Hard contacts
- Speech relaxation techniques
- Rate Reduction Techniques
- To practice Different kind of Drills
- Group Therapy
- Compensatory Mechanism
As per research studies, the best treatment of stuttering is speech therapy done by professional SLPs. A speech therapist would ask you to –
- Notice when you stutter
- Manage the triggers or situations that might make stuttering worse
- Talk it out with family or close friends, instead of hiding
- How to control stranger anxiety
- How to control your emotions
- Different Exercises for Fluent speech
- When and how to ignore the stuttering
- The methodology of pause and talk technique
Some tips for family members or caregivers of stuttering people are –
- Never correct what a stuttering person is saying, nor should you complete his/her sentences
- Encourage them to speak about their feelings and personal emotions
- Consider family therapy, provide the person with enough mental support, to make him/her feel confident
- Create a relaxed environment when the person is speaking. Stressful situations make stuttering worse.
- Regular practice of speech therapy exercises at home.
7) How to Avoid It?
In order to avoid anxiety caused due to stuttering, you need to address your stammering problems first. A professional speech therapist will help you to overcome your speech disorders caused due to stuttering, enabling you to speak better. However, there are other ways of reducing the chances of anxiety, including –
- Eat a healthy diet
- Consume fermented and probiotics food
- Quit smoking
- Limit caffeine intake
- Abstain from consuming alcohol
- Exercise regularly
- Practice yoga
- Try meditation, positive self-talk, deep breathing and other relaxation exercises.
- Avoid negative people
- Ignore negative comments
- While speaking don’t think about stuttering.
- Have some good friends with whom you can share your pains.
These methods will help reduce stress, and hence your anxiety disorders. And if your anxiety is a result of your stuttering, you can try online speech therapy sessions for better results.
8) Whom to Consult?
If your anxiety is a result of your stuttering problems, you need to approach your speech therapist first. He or she will manage your speech difficulties and help you speak better through effective online stammering therapy sessions. A professional speech-language therapist would also suggest you to go through mind-relaxing exercises to help reduce stress and alleviate anxiety disorders. He/she will also educate the candidate about stuttering and help the person realise the ways to make himself/herself, or another stuttering person feel better. Speech therapy can help a person restore his/her self-worth as well. Sometimes SLP refer more severe cases to a psychologist for counseling and cognitive behaviour therapy.
9) Treatment Outcome
Once your stammering problems have been taken care of, your anxiety disorders will automatically start improving. You will grow more self-confident while speaking in public. This will reduce stress and fear of failures or getting rejected. You will also be more confident while talking with strangers, performing on stage, or attending social gatherings.
10) Self-check Questionnaire
Check out for these common signs and try answering them with a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
- Do you constantly feel fear of getting rejected at work or getting punished at school?
- Do you lose your confidence while speaking in public?
- Do you avoid social situations?
- Is your anxiety about stuttering affecting your personal relationships?
- Do you feel stressed almost for the entire day?
- Are you having sleepless nights?
- Does your heartbeat increase while speaking with strangers?
- Do you sweat due to excessive nervousness while speaking in a group
- Do you feel Dry mouth while speaking to strangers
- Do you become very much frustrated after every event of stuttering in social gatherings?
- Do you avoid speaking with strangers?
- Do you feel people underestimate you due to your stuttering?
- Do you feel you could do better without stuttering problem
- Do you feel less energetic in new verbal tasks due to stuttering?
- Do you curse your self for stuttering?
If you answered ‘Yes’ to 5 or more of the above questions, you need professional help. There are advanced and more effective programs for online speech therapy for stammering, conducted by qualified speech therapists. They will help you to deal with stuttering as well as the anxiety issues related to it.