When a child doesn’t want to talk in unfamiliar environments, we tend to dismiss it as shyness. But they may in fact be suffering from an anxiety disorder known as selective mutism.

If a parent notices that their child has not said anything in an unfamiliar environment for more than four weeks, they should consult a psychiatrist who specialises in children and adolescents.

It’s important to remember that such children do not remain silent intentionally and do not mean their behaviour as a provocation.

Most of them do in fact want to speak, but their anxiety will not let them, says Ingo Spitczok von Brisinski of the German Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists.

Affected children usually have no problem talking at home, so the disorder often goes untreated. Without proper therapy, however, it often leads to poor results at school, because they fail to participate as expected during lessons. – dpa


In the TV sitcom Big Bang Theory, the character Raj used to suffer from a form of selective mutism; he wasn’t able to speak to girls without the help of alcohol!