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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Is stuttering caused by nervousness?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1


    Gail Rogers

    Speech Pathologist

    Gail's passionate interest in working in the area of voice, communication & swallowing challenges developed after working as Speech and Language Pathologist with many different clientele in various … View Profile

    there is no known proven cause of stuttering - different clients have different reasons for their speech dysfluencies to occur - nervousness may be an influencing factor but not necessarily the cause.

  • Sharon Moore

    Speech Pathologist

    I am a Speech Pathologist with 30 years clinical experience, working over the years with a wide range of clients with communication and swallowing disorders. … View Profile

    This is a really important question so I would like to extend some discussion here. Research has not pinpointed any cause of stuttering however there is a genetic link in ~30% of cases.
     In adult stutterers nervousness can become a part of an adult stuttering pattern, where stressful events or anticipation anxiety about speaking can trigger worse stuttering (dysfluency). For some, the very thought of speaking on the phone, for example, can raise high degrees of anxiety.The part that nervousness or anxiety plays, is dependant on a person's past experiences, personality and ways of coping with emotionally challenging or stressful environments. For many stutterers, speaking interactions themselves cause anxiety and some of that is driven by listener reactions and responses to the person who is dysfluent. Each person has a unique pattern of dysfluency  and each person requires assessment and therapy based on their own unique pattern and circumstances.
    Studies at the Sydney University have shown that anxiety/nervousness can develop in children as young as 6 years, in conjunction with dysfluent speech and the social experiences that go with being dysfluent. Cognitive behaviour therapy techniques have been shown to be very useful in helping children avoid development of entrenched patterns of unhelpful emotional responses. CBT is also a very useful model to help adults experiencing anxiety associated with dysfluency and its communication challenges.
    The area you have raised is a complex and very important issue when helping people who stutter, to learn to cope with their fluency disorder, where for many the 2 issues (fluency and anxiety) become intertwined. 
    Early intervention which helps young children to overcome stuttering is the best advice, as treated young, any stutterer has the best chance of overcoming the difficulty and avoiding development of concomitant nervousness and anxiety,
    Having said that, many adults who stutter can learn effective techniques to manage both fluency and anxiety, the general rule of thumb being, the longer the problem has existed and the more severe the problem is, the longer it will take to resolve and develop coping mechanisms. Thanks for asking a great question. Whilst nervouseness does not cause stuttering it can certainly exacerbate it , or conversely dysfluent behaviour and experiences can lead to anxiety.

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