What causes selective mutism?
The interaction of genetic, temperamental, environmental, and developmental factors is hypothesized to impact the cause of selective mutism.
Selective mutism, social reluctance, and social phobia are all shown to be more common in relatives of people with selective mutism, according to studies looking at behavioral traits and psychopathology. According to a recent study, it stated that 10 out of 24 children associated with selective mutism have a history of family members with either selective mutism or social anxiety symptoms in their childhood.
A temperament style known as behavioral inhibition is characterized by a person’s inclination to express anxiety and avoidance in unknown situations. Shyness, which is linked to the topic of temperament, is a frequent personality trait in which people feel embarrassed, apprehensive, or nervous during social interactions, especially with strangers.
Environmental factor can also contribute significantly to selective mutism such as being forced to speak a new language. Some children with selective mutism come from a bilingual family, have been exposed to new languages as a child, or have lived in a foreign place. The added burden of speaking many languages creates uncertainty in these children, which leads to higher anxiety levels and, as a result, mutism.
About a quarter of children with selective mutism have speech or language problems. Others may be introverted and have modest learning problems. These limitations increase a child’s stress and make them feel uncertain in frightening situations where they must talk.
Children with selective mutism also have a low excitability threshold in a part of their brain called the amygdala that can cause behavioral challenges. By processing impulses from the sympathetic nervous system, the amygdala detects possible threat. When people are afraid, they have a set of reactions that assist them to protect themselves. As a result, children with selective mutism interpret places like school, birthday parties, and gatherings as frightening scenarios, and their amygdala detects “danger” in these situations, causing anxiety.