Recent research has shown a link between social anxiety disorder (SAD) and childhood-onset fluency disorder (stuttering), with a rate of overlap as high as 75 percent.
What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety disorder is more than simply being nervous or shy. SAD, also known as a social phobia, causes people to avoid all social contact because certain aspects of everyday interactions, like small talk and eye contact, make them so uncomfortable.
Symptoms of SAD are triggered by social interactions, and may include:
- Fear of being judged, embarrassed, humiliated or offending someone
- Rapid heartbeat
- Muscle tension
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Shortness of breath
Symptoms may occur when thinking about social interactions, during social interactions or even after social interactions have passed.
What Is Childhood-Onset Fluency Disorder?
Stuttering is a speech disorder that causes problems with fluency and speech flow. People who stutter know what they are trying to say but have a difficult time getting the words out. While common in young children learning how to speak, the condition can persist into adulthood without early intervention.
Symptoms of stuttering include:
- Trouble starting a word, phrase or sentence
- Prolonging sounds within a word
- Repetition of a sound, syllable or word
- Silence between syllables or words
- Addition of filler words
- Tension or tightness in the face
While less common, stuttering can be accompanied by:
- Rapid eye blinks
- Tremors of the lips or jaw
- Facial tics
- Head jerks
- Clenched fists
The Link Between Stuttering & SAD
It is important to note that, while feelings of stress, anxiety or embarrassment are common for people who stutter, SAD is not diagnosed unless these symptoms are debilitating to some degree and occur for reasons beyond the stutter.
While the nature of the link between these conditions is unclear, studies have shown that the neurotransmitter dopamine plays a role in both stuttering and SAD. In fact, a higher rate of SAD has been found in people with Parkinson’s disease, a disorder involving dopamine production.
Neuroimaging has also shown that people with SAD and a stutter have abnormalities in their dopamine D2 receptor and process dopamine differently than people without these disorders. The amygdala may also play a role in SAD and stuttering.
Speech therapy with a speech-language pathologist (SLP) is the standard treatment for stuttering and other speech disorders. SAD is often treated with medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). People with both conditions benefit greatly from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
For more information about the link between stuttering and social anxiety disorder, contact the experts at Heuser Hearing Institute today.