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.
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 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.
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.
Recent clinical work has shown that hypnosis offers a cure for a stammer and other speech impediments. The clinical work has been proven in work with children and adults who have recovered from a speech impediment.
There are three causes of most speech impediments:
- Genetic causes produce improper chemical signalling structures in the brain.
- Accidents and birth defects can produce physical damage to the speech centres in the brain.
- Physical and emotional abuse can produce a speech impediment or a stammer.
Hypnosis has been proven to be useful in eliminating stammers and speech impediments caused by all three major causes. The processing of the event is largely the same in all cases. A stressful event produces a stammering incident. The memory of that incident is stored in a person’s brain. The feeling of stress automatically invokes a stammering response. The cycle becomes repetitive.
Hypnosis seeks first to find the event or stress that causes the verbal response. Once the stressing incident or idea is named and accepted by the patient, the hypnotist leads the person back to a time in their life when they did not stammer.
The person realises that stammering may be a protective mechanism.
The hypnotherapist can make suggestions to the patient that eliminates the memory of the event that produced the stammer or speech impediment. The repetition of the techniques may require more than one session.
An additional method of hypnosis that can help people deal with speech impediments is self hypnosis. This is a simple technique that should be taught by a trained professional. The person who has a speech impediment trains themselves to avoid the stress that triggers their outbursts of speech difficulty.
With hypnosis, stammers and speech impediments can potentially be cured. A life time of therapy is not necessary. There is a beginning and a foreseeable end to the treatment.