Mental Health

Selective mutism (SM)

Anxiety disorder in which a person who is normally capable of speech cannot speak in specific situations or to specific people.

  • Usually co-exists with shyness or social anxiety
  • People with selective mutism stay silent even when the consequences of their silence include shame, social ostracism, or punishment.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5; APA, 2013, p. 195) diagnostic criteria::

  • Consistent failure to speak in specific social situations in which there is an expectation for speaking (e.g., at school), despite speaking in other situations.
  • Disturbance interferes with educational/occupational achievement or with social communication
  • Duration of the disturbance ≥ 1 month (not limited to first month of school)
  • Failure to speak is not attributable to lack of knowledge of, or comfort with, the spoken language required in the social situation
  • Disturbance is not better explained by a communication disorder (e.g., child-onset fluency disorder) and does not occur exclusively during the course of autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, or another psychotic disorder

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