Why Do So Many People Believe That Selective Mutism Is A Choice?

Something that has always baffled me is why so many people believe that people who have Selective Mutism choose not to talk. I realise that the two main reasons are because of the name (Selective Mutism which suggests that it is a choice) and also the fact that people with SM do talk in some situations, but I think when people make these assumptions, they don’t really put too much thought into it.

One of the number one frustrations that I have had to deal with over the years is the fact that so many people believed that my silence was/is a choice. I cannot express to you enough how it feels to be unable to speak even when you really want to talk to absolutely everyone, but yet the words won’t come out and yet even through this battle of trying so hard to talk, no one recognises how much you’re struggling and they just presume it’s your choice.

I cannot imagine why anyone would choose not to talk. Not only that, but even if someone did choose not to talk, they would not be able to maintain it for very long. They would get fed up of not talking and would eventually end up talking. It would literally be impossible to maintain it for its persistence. When I am able to talk, I literally cannot shut myself up. I find it literally impossible to stop talking.

Not communicating with others completely takes away your identity. You cannot express who you really are and often this will cause you to be completely ignored because people just think that you are boring. You cannot do anything independently because you always need someone there with you to be your voice; it literally affects every single aspect of your life. I cannot understand why anyone would truly believe that anyone would choose to make their life so difficult for themselves.

Selective Mutism is not a choice. Selective Mutism is a severe anxiety disorder in which the person experiences such extreme levels of anxiety that their entire body tenses up and this includes their throat muscles. The tension literally sends a physical paralysis to their throat muscles and they literally cannot get a single word to come out. This anxiety is situational which is why they can talk in some situations but not others.

Not everyone will have experienced sleep paralysis, but I thought it would be worth mentioning for those who have. A few years ago, I used to experience sleep paralysis on a nightly basis. This is when your mind wakes up during sleep, but your body stays sleeping, so you wake up and you cannot move. When this used to happen to me, I would try so hard to scream out for help, but nothing would ever come out; it was the exact feeling that I get when I am unable to speak. I could try so hard to even scream in a situation where I am unable to talk, but nothing would come out.

Remember that girl/boy you liked at school? You tried so hard to go up and talk to them, but no matter how hard you tried, you just couldn’t do it? Imagine that this anxiety occurs every single time you try to talk to absolutely anyone.

Ever experienced stage fright? Have you ever gotten up on a stage and found yourself unable to speak in front of the audience, or found it very difficult to the point where you could only just get the words out? Imagine that the world outside of your home is a stage and every time you leave your house, you experience that same anxiety that you experience when you get up on a stage.

None of these things are things that you choose. They are beyond your control. This is exactly what it is like for someone who has Selective Mutism. Every single person who has SM wants to talk more than anything else in the world, but they experience such severe anxiety each time they try that they just physically can’t. Underneath it all, most people with SM are very loud and chatty people. Without the anxiety, many would be one of the loudest in a group of people, but their anxiety hides all of this away. It is heartbreaking for them to want to talk more than anything else in the world, especially when they try so hard but yet have people who continue to believe that they are choosing to be this way and they can’t say anything to them to put them right.

Even if you really can’t get your head around SM, which I know many people can’t, please just know that no one with SM chooses to be silent.

If you are someone who has believed that SM was a choice in the past but now knows differently, what was the reason that you thought it was a choice? If you’re someone who still believes that SM is a choice, why do you think it’s a choice?

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