What is stammering?
Here are some things that may happen to your talking – things that you might do when you stammer:
- You may just keep repeating (“p-p-p-p-please”), sometimes the whole word is repeated (“my-my-my-my-my name is”)
- You may also find that a sound just keeps on going and you can’t move on to the next bit of the word, “ssssssssee what I mean?” It is a bit like stretching a sound out
- Perhaps you find that the word or the beginning sound gets completely stuck, and nothing comes out at all “!!!”. When this happens, the other person might not even know that you are trying to speak. It can be very frustrating and embarrassing
- Stammering interrupts talking. It is like tripping up in your own mouth and sometimes, like tripping up, you can “save yourself” and sometimes it feels impossible
- It feels as if you can’t help it – it just happens – sometimes it happens without any warning and other times it happens on particular words or at important moments
- You may have developed clever tricks to stop it happening. For example, finding a different word that isn’t so hard or putting an extra word or sound in first. At other times you might just avoid the word or the situation altogether
- Whatever you do you may be trying to stop the stammer getting in your way
There are other things that happen because of the stammering:
- Stammering can be very tiring. It takes a lot of energy (both physical and mental), your breathing can be difficult and you may find that you tense up some muscles in your neck, mouth, chest or hands and body
- It is often embarrassing and frustrating, and you may find that in some situations you get nervous about speaking
- Maybe you think that other people will be feeling sorry for you or, worse still, that some people might find it funny. Sometimes you may even think that you know exactly what others are thinking. That will make you try harder to stop the stammering and of course the harder you try to stop the stammer, the worse it usually gets. This is called a vicious cycle. Most people who stammer will know this feeling.
What Causes It?
We don’t really know yet. Scientists have been working for years to try and find out whether there is a cause and whether there is a cure. One thing that is agreed is that the problem is highly complicated.
Stammering is probably not caused by one single thing for a person – it is more likely that it is the result of very many factors. More importantly, the ingredients of stammering are probably different for every person who has a stammer. And the things that help stammering may be slightly different for everyone too.
This diagram shows the four different areas which may influence your stammer, some of which may apply to you.