Speech anxiety is a problem that affects speech fluency. In some cases, it begins in childhood and can last a lifetime. Interruptions in the production of sounds characterize the disorder during speech, defined as dysrhythmias or disfluencies. There are several types of dysthymia:
- Tonic dysphemia: the problem lies in the existence of a block at the beginning of the speech.
- Clonic dysphemia: consists of slight muscle contractions that cause the repetition of sounds or syllables during speech.
- Tonic-clonic dysphemia: where both repetitions and prolongations of syllables occur. Some dysrhythmias may occur from time to time, i.e., they do not constitute a problem. However, we speak of a disorder when these dysrhythmias hinder the ability to communicate.
Up to ninety percent of the cases of speech anxiety have their origin in a problem of anxiety. Generally, it is manifested between six and twelve years of age, when a child must face a group of classes, either to explain a subject or to answer some question before the fixed look of his companions or when in his familiar environment, it is demanded that he argues better what they are questioning him.
There are some tips to prevent speech anxiety. This type of disorder is easier to stop at an early age. Some suggestions are the following:
- Create a calm atmosphere where the person feels safe and understood. Stressful situations only serve to aggravate the problem.
- Encourage self-control patterns, such as breathing. This helps to cope with tense situations where this disease develops.
- If the disorder occurs in children, it is essential to act as a role model, i.e., speak without excessive speed, relaxed tone and articulate the words.
- Wait patiently for the person who stutters to finish the sentence in a normalized manner.
Through diagnosis, the professional can calculate the risk that a child will continue to have speech anxiety problems later in life. Still, since it is not an exact science, treatment should be as early as possible to minimize the chances of this occurring. Among the most commonly used therapies are:
- Speech therapy. In which patients are taught to slow down their speech and to detect when they stutter, among other things, to achieve a much more fluent and intelligible pattern.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy. This psychotherapy aims to identify and control the thoughts and situations that provoke stress that leads to more stuttering and controlling anxiety or self-esteem problems resulting from stuttering.
- Parent-child interaction. Or the patient’s closest environment. The therapist gives them some guidelines to improve the patient’s life, such as listening to them attentively, not correcting them, speaking naturally about the problem, etc. The Spanish Foundation for Stuttering has published a Guide for Parents to find beneficial information on the subject.
- Electronic devices. Currently, there are electronic devices designed to improve speech fluency. They are worn during everyday activities and help the patient by digitally reproducing in the ear a slightly altered version of the wearer’s voice so that it sounds as if they are talking to another person simultaneously and helps to slow down speech.
- It is not shared, and its benefits are not fully proven, but some medications, such as some to treat anxiety or epilepsy, can help control some symptoms.
Combining these therapies will significantly improve the patient’s quality of life, either by optimizing communication and interactions with others or at a psychological level by raising their self-esteem and reducing their level of anxiety.