Written by Katherine Nicholls

Katherine Nicholls

Hypnotherapy Directory Content Team

Content Creator and Strategist

Last updated on 5th December, 2017

Stuttering, also referred to as stammering, is a speech problem that is quite common in children and can continue into adulthood. It is estimated that around one in 20 children will struggle with stuttering at some point. Around four in five of those affected will grow out of it and it’s estimated that one in 100 adults will continue to stutter.

With stress often making it worse, having a stutter can affect confidence, self-esteem and lead to high anxiety. On this page, we’ll look at stuttering in more detail and explore how hypnotherapy can help.

What is a stutter/stammer

When you have a stutter, it means you have difficulty with some elements of your speech. It may be that you repeat sounds or syllables (for example, “b-b-b-book”), that you make certain sounds for longer (“boooooooook”) or that you are unable to get the word out at all.

Stuttering affects everyone differently and will vary from person to person. Some people may experience periods of stuttering followed by periods of speaking fluidly. For some, stress makes it worse.

The two main types of stuttering are:

  • Developmental stammering - this is the most common type and happens in early childhood when language skills are developing.
  • Acquired/late-onset stammering - this is more rare, occurring in older children and adults as a result of stroke, a head injury of a progressive neurological condition. It can also happen as a result of certain drugs or medication and trauma.

What causes it

Problems with speech can happen when some parts of the developing system aren’t coordinating. This may then lead to repetition, stopping - something that can happen more when under pressure or over-excited.

As most children grow up, their speech and language system catches up and they ‘grow out’ of their stutter. For some, however, this doesn’t happen and they continue to struggle with their speech.

In other cases, stuttering starts after the developmental stage. This can happen after a head injury, a stroke or due to a neurological condition. It’s also believed that trauma and times of intense stress can lead to the development of a stutter.

However it begins, for some it can be overt and obvious, for others it is more covert. Other people may not know you have a stutter, but your fear of stuttering can affect you in a big way. This can lead to something called interiorised stammering.

Interiorised stammering

Interiorised stammering can happen when you have strong negative feelings about your stammer. You may have high levels of fluency when you talk, but also avoid situations that could trigger your stammer or make it worse.

For example, you might try and hide the fact that you have a stammer and have strong feelings of shame surrounding it. Because of this, you might develop certain behaviours like internally rehearse speech over and over again.

Creating strategies and avoidance techniques to hide your stammer may be part of your daily life. Interiorised stammering is often likened to an iceberg, what you see on the surface is only a very small part of the story. The fear, guilt and shame are beneath the surface.

This can all lead to you changing your behaviour and withdrawing from social interactions, which in turn can lead to poor self-esteem, stress and anxiety.

The main issue is more the stress of thinking I might stammer. It can stop you from being social in general, particularly meeting new people where I’m more likely to get questions that I might struggle with. For me as it’s so mild and people don’t usually notice, it adds more stress. It makes it more stressful than if the stammer was obvious I would imagine.

- Read James’ story.

How stuttering can affect you

Whether your stutter is severe or mild, overt or covert, it can have a huge effect on your life. It can knock your confidence, making you nervous to talk to others. This can lead to low self-esteem.

Being worried about whether or not you’re going to be able to get your words out can be very stressful. Prolonged stress can develop into anxiety. Your behaviour may change because of this and you could even develop low mood and depression.

The important thing to remember is that there is still support available and you can learn to cope with these effects and improve your stutter.

Getting help for stuttering

If your stutter is impacting on your daily life, visit your GP. They will be able to investigate further and may refer you to a speech and language therapist. They can then work with you to help improve your fluency and reduce the impact stuttering has on your life.

You may also be recommended to try psychological therapies to help you deal with the negative feelings you have around stuttering and to improve confidence.

Speaking to others who struggle with their speech can also help. You may find it helpful to join online support forums where you can share experiences and offer tips. Another option to help with the impact of stuttering is hypnotherapy.

Hypnotherapy for stuttering

In some cases, stutters are caused by a physical or emotional trauma, or times of extreme stress (for example being bullied). In these instances, and if stuttering causes you stress and anxiety, hypnotherapy can be a helpful tool.

Analytical hypnotherapy can be used to explore when your stutter first started and analyse what happened and why it may have triggered your stutter. Your hypnotherapist can use techniques to help change your beliefs about the situation and desensitise your reactions to the memory.

Hypnotherapy can also help you develop strategies to cope better with your day-to-day triggers too (for example in social situations or public speaking). If you are struggling with stress, anxiety and/or low self-esteem as a result of your stuttering, seeing a hypnotherapist can be helpful.

Your hypnotherapist will help you into a deeply relaxed state where your unconscious is more open to suggestion. Here, the therapist can offer ‘suggestions’ to ease stress, reduce anxiety and build confidence. Often, stress and anxiety can make stutters worse, so relieving these with hypnotherapy can, in turn, improve the fluency of speech.

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