Comments: 435 • Responses: 60  • Date: 

CottonQueen122 karma

If you preemptively told someone over the Internet "I won't speak to you if we meet in person," and they said that was fine, they didn't care, do you think that might alleviate your anxiety enough that you could actually speak to them?

Or: are there any mental tricks you've found you can play on yourself to relieve your mutism?

marinamaral62 karma

I'll still feel very anxious, but I think it will be a little easier. But if it's a stranger person, I'd rather not talk about my problem and try to act naturally.

teefour32 karma

What about reflexive sounds? Like if someone tickled you, would it just be silent laughter?

marinamaral26 karma


sucumber15 karma

Or pain? If you whack your hand on something, or let's say break a bone, would you not have an outburst of pain?

marinamaral55 karma

There was a day when I held my arm on the door. When a kid closed the door, it definitely chewed my skin. I pulled the arm towards me, and it got worse. It was a huge purple thing. I couldn't even cry.

WhyMentionMyUsername5 karma

That's really creepy.. Now and then I experience something similar when I'm dreaming, and I think even that is scary.

What if you have to sneeze? Is it a silent sneeze?

marinamaral5 karma

Yes, it is.

cream_of_the_crap73 karma

I didn't watch the documentary nor did I read your previous AMA (both things will be done, though), but I'm curious as to how psychologists diagnose selective mutism. I am a teacher, and I have plenty of students who apparently choose not to speak when asked and simply nod/shake their heads (and I am definitely not the most intimidating guy when in the classroom), but how do you differentiate, particulary at an early age, when it's selective mutism, when it's shyness and when it's just the way kids behave?

When you are in a situation in which you find yourself unable to speak, does it cause you any level of anxiety? It's obviously something you can't control, so, is it like being tied and unable to move? worse? not so bad? Will/Does it help if you write things?

This is most interesting, as it's the first time I've actually read about someone with this condition, rather than the stereotypes on TV. Thanks a lot, and stay strong.

marinamaral99 karma

It's so amazing that I can talk to a teacher about it. Please, if you have any students showing a similar behavior, never, never, never try to force him/she to talk and don't let anyone do this. That's the worst feeling in the world. My teachers were horrible and even humiliated me in front of my friends very often. My school definately didn't know how to handle it, and neither the school psychologist. My mother took me to many psychologists and they have questioned many possibilities, including autism, but it was nothing like that. When I was 12, I found a wonderful psychologist who through a lot of research found that what I have is selective mutism. When I was younger, I didn't know what was happening. I just dealt with it as I could. I can't even remember when was it started. I went through 4 schools in my life since I was 3, and I have no memories of having spoken to someone in any of them.

Yes, this causes a huge level of anxiety and takes me the opportunity to do many things. I feel very stupid, very sad, very upset. I even ask mentally for them to stop talking to me. The worst thing is when a stranger comes to me and I am with someone with whom I am unable to speak. It's the worst feeling ever. The person stares at me waiting for a answer, and I get embarrassed, looking back.

Definitely, I loved being with my friends at school because they understood me (some of them), even though I did not speak with them. But most teachers were terrible. Please send me a PM. I'd love to help you to deal with your students.

losian35 karma

Piggy backing off this, a lot of teachers, much less parents, don't understand that some kids are just different. Being constantly harasses to 'talk more' and 'make more friends' and adhere to the one ideal person stereotype is crushing to a child.. when you say "you're so quiet, you should talk more" it pushes them away, especially if maybe they felt they had participated that day by their own measure of comfort. School is not designed for anyone but the extroverted.

marinamaral19 karma

I remember many horrible situations at school. There was a day when I held my arm on the door. When a kid closed the door, it definitely chewed my skin. I pulled the arm, and it got worse. It was a huge purple thing. I couldn't even cry.

smg02021 karma

I teach middle school. If you had a chat window where you could communicate with the teacher via computer, would that have helped? Trying to think of anything I could put in place to help kids like this! Another teacher had a student with this last year, and reading your comments, I feel like we failed him. I want to be ready to help our next one!

marinamaral3 karma

Yes, it would help a lot! Send me a PM if you need. :)

nickcut58 karma

Wow! My daughter (6) has Selective Mutism. We didn't find out there was a problem until her teachers at her preschool told us that she had never said a word at school. She was barely 4 then, and we've been trying to get her help ever since. Of course, at the time we didn't know what it was, and tried speech therapists (it's not a speech issue) and a cognitive behavioral therapist (who our daughter adores but I don't think it's helping her condition). We're attending a workshop in July at FIU with a group that specializes in treatment (Brave Bunch) and we really hope that helps.

My question is, what was the most effective form of therapy for you? Did you try medications such as prozac or zoloft (I've heard kids with SM greatly benefit from this)?

marinamaral13 karma

I was diagnosed when I was 12, which is very late, so the treatment was not effective for me. My psychologist never recommended me any medication, except some to help me to deal with anxiety and depression. So I don't know if these medications can help in some way.

SilentlyCrying42 karma

Would learning sign language help you be able to communicate in certain social situations where you find yourself unable to speak?

marinamaral57 karma

I never thought about it before, until someone here on Reddit gave me this idea. Yes, it helps, but I have developed other methods to be able to communicate. For example, writing on a paper. When I was younger, I used to whisper in the ear of someone with whom I could speak, and that person transmitted the message. Today, I feel very stupid doing it. But yes, I could communicate through sign language, as well as writing on a paper and etc.

SilentlyCrying6 karma

With the show Big Bang Theory and one of the main characters having this disorder do you find people are more understanding now days?

marinamaral26 karma

I don't think so. I never watched the show and I don't know how the character is portrayed in the story, but I never felt that it made any difference in the way people are now seeing the condition.

sioux61216 karma

To give a short overview for his behavior in the first few seasons:

In the beginning he couldn't talk when women were present but he could whisper into the ear of a man so he could relay the information.

Then one episode he noticed he could talk with and around women after consuming alcohol, even one sip was enough and even alcohol free beer was ok when he wasn't told that it was alcohol free.

The character himself is portrayed not too badly if you don't mind his best friend sometimes messing up the info he gave on purpose and the the female main charakter calling him cute but weird

Hope this helps

marinamaral7 karma

I don't believe that alcohol can affect it in any way.

justchillyo38 karma

You should've just not answered a single question.

Have you tried smoking weed?

marinamaral20 karma

Hahaha no. lol.

howcheesy24 karma

If you close your eyes or look the other way are you able to speak, or is it more the sense that that person is there?

marinamaral36 karma

Definitely I can't. My uncle's wife is married to him since I'm 3, and she heard my voice accidentally several times. Even so, I still can't say anything to her.

onciblu23 karma

Can you record your voice and show it latter, if they do this without you knowing how would you feel?

marinamaral31 karma

My family tried this a few times. Of course, they did it with a good intention, but I felt very ashamed and very sad.

JeffersonSpicoli11 karma

Why did that make you ashamed/sad? Because it showed that you can actually talk normally?

marinamaral41 karma

I don't know why. It's just a strange feeling. People were looking at me like: oh my God, you can talk.

Th3BlackLotus24 karma

No friends? That just won't do. I'll be your friend, if you wana make a new friend. :)

marinamaral19 karma

I would love to have you as my friend. :)

roastedllamaleg14 karma

Hey. Thanks for doing this AMA. Ill be glad to be friends with you anytime.

Heres my question. If we talked online for some time and i meet you IRL, will you be able to speak with me?

marinamaral15 karma

Hello! Thank you very much. Yes, I will! Today it is easier for me to talk with a stranger if we are alone or with other strangers/someone who I am able to speak.

h311ion13 karma

I'm having an extremely hard time trying to understand this. Trying to keep an open mind, but honestly this sounds like just people who are beyond shy and afraid to face your fear, if it is fear that's preventing you from talking. If you could explain your situation as best as you could in one sentence, what would you say?

marinamaral4 karma

I would say that no one in their right mind would choose to go through it. It's like a huge lock inside me. Watch the documentary that you will understand it better.

chipsonmyshoulders12 karma

Is Rajesh from The Big Bang Theory a good representation of the disorder? He can not speak to girls but can speak when drunk.

Can you nod or shake your head when asked something? Like can you use your body-language to communicate or is that channel muted too?

I know a person who seem to be able to speak but in a very, very, very, very low voice. Is that the same disorder or a different one since the voice is not completely muted?

marinamaral2 karma

From what people are telling me, definitely not. The show seems to make fun of it. Yes, I can. I don't know, maybe it can be. But there are several symptoms together, and not just a specific one which will help in the correct diagnosis.

thepanichand11 karma

Have you ever read Torey Hayden's books? She worked with special needs kids as a teacher and elective mutism was her specialty. She has fascinating stories of children with the disorder.

I had a neighbour, an adult male, with the disorder, or at least I assume so because he'd cheerfully sign and gesture to converse with me and others, but periodically he'd speak to someone. I was glad I knew about the condition.

marinamaral5 karma

No! What is the book's name?

thepanichand2 karma

She has several, about seven or eight nonfiction accounts of her students. She also writes young adult fiction. Most have a child with elective mutism, but they're all a good read. However, most of her mute students have traumatic origins.

marinamaral2 karma

Can you send me her name by pm, please?

Draculea10 karma

What are your opinions concerning the idea that Selective Mutism is an unneeded name for intense social anxiety?

marinamaral4 karma

I think the name is not important as long as people know what it is and how to handle with this.

RedEM439 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA. What are your plans for work, do you have a job that requires no vocal interaction with people?

marinamaral12 karma

I will work with International Relations. As I said, today I have no problem speaking to new people, if it is in some specific conditions. But I dont think this will be a problem professionally.

oprimo2 karma

I see you are Brazilian (like me, yay!) but express yourself quite well in English. What about speaking foreign languages? Is it easier or harder?

marinamaral4 karma

It is usually easier. Not because it is a different language, but because I'll be talking to people who have absolutely no idea that I have this problem.

(É legal encontrar um brasileiro aqui!)

Iwanttobelive9 karma

What happens when you see something really funny?

marinamaral19 karma

I laugh in silence lol Yes, very awkward.

feels_good_donut8 karma

My 5 year old daughter has this and we feel like we're doing very well to manage her symptoms, but what advice would you give us as parents? We're both nurses and I have an extensive background with mental health so she has a great support system at home, but we are worried about school.

marinamaral8 karma

You have to make sure that the school will know how to deal with it. Try to talk with the teacher, explain the situation... do your best to make her feel comfortable. She is in some kind of psychological treatment? At 6, I think this is still reversible. If you need to, send me a PM anytime you want. :)

marinamaral7 karma

It is also a great idea if you ask for a psychologist you trust to go to the school to talk to teachers and even the students.

Igetknockeddown7 karma

How has your disorder affected your relationship with those that you can't speak? Seems like it might make things a little awkward.

marinamaral14 karma

Very awkward. This affects in many ways. If I travel with that person, for example, I can get one entire month or so without saying a word.

altohanalt7 karma

  1. a. do you speak to family? b. do you speak to immediate family that perhaps you havent met before or would you have to meet them to consider that? c. or better yet who exactly do you speak to and in what situation would you speak to them and not speak to them? as in if you went out with your mother(assuming you talk to her) and she met a friend and your mother asked you something, would you respond or not because you dont know the person? or even would you speak to your mother outside of the house with a whole bunch of randoms around or because they are passerbyers would the anxiety not take over?

  2. as you mentioned it has affected your social life i am assuming you havent been in a relationship before?

  3. whats your favorite band and or classical composer.

  4. do you sing at home or in general or would the fact that the voice will project outside of the house, thus the neighbors or even passerbyers would hear you, give you pause due to anxiety?

marinamaral17 karma

  1. a. I can speak with my family, but not all of them. I can speak to my mother, my grandparents, my closest uncles, my cousins... But I can't speak to some uncles and my great-grandmother, for example. b. I can speak to them, since I'm not with anyone else with whom I no longer spoke before. c. I can speak with strangers (this is much easier today, almost natural. Before, I felt very ashamed, but could still answer), I can speak to them, since I'm not with anyone else with whom I no longer spoke before.

  2. You are right. Never. :)

  3. I don't have a favorite band because I love a lot of them. Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Bob Marley, Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse, Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, Beyonce, Michael Jackson, The Beatles... I also love black music, folk, jazz, R&B...

  4. I can definitely sing at home. There is no problem, because I can speak with my neighbors.

altohanalt10 karma

following up with c. but how does your mind decide whether that stranger is worth talking to or not? or can you talk to all strangers now? how have you, if you have, overcome this? i ask because im 26 and i cant talk to many women, even fellow uni classmates, at first i thought i was just shy but its actually gotten to the point sometimes where they will talk to me than i get anixety and i actually just say "nope, cant do it." and i walk away.

marinamaral9 karma

I can speak to them, with this condition that I quoted above. I don't know how I overcame it. I think it happened naturally as I was growing up, but I still can't speak to some people.

PhiladelphiaIrish-3 karma

TIL that "black music" is a genre, and that Bob Marley and Beyonce aren't included.

marinamaral8 karma

Sorry about that.

ReadyThor7 karma

Why did you leave school? I'm a teacher and I'm sure I'd have no problem teaching someone completely mute, let alone with selective mutism. In fact I do have a student who doesn't speak because his voice sounds very funny and I've had no problems so far.

marinamaral16 karma

I left school because selective mutism helped to develop in me a depression. People were often hitting me, hurting me, making jokes, teachers humiliated me. No one seemed willing to try to understand my problem, except for a few people. But I started studying at home alone after 3 years and I've concluded my studies. The school had its good points, but was also a traumatic experience. Teachers probably thought I didnt speak because I didnt want to.

ReadyThor7 karma

I understand and am terribly sorry for all you've been through. Most people find it hard to relate with someone having a problem they can't fully understand. I've been there myself, depression and all.

I know it is hard to speak up about such issues because even when you do most people will pooh pooh your problem. They will offer you solutions and when you tell you've already tried and they didn't work they'll reply that it must be because you are not trying hard enough, often implying that the fault is yours. You know that's not the case.

Even if you conquered your problem I am sure you realise that those who are going through the same problem need all the help and support they can get. So it is a great thing you're speaking up and raising awareness. I'm with you.

marinamaral4 karma

I never had the opportunity to talk about it with a teacher. It's really cool to talk to you. Thanks!

ReadyThor3 karma

I understand it is not always easy to approach teachers on such matters. If a student approached me telling me s/he has a problem I didn't understand, my first reaction would be to buy time to get the help of a guidance teacher, if anything to verify that the problem is genuine (not some student trying to avoid work) and to get some guidance myself about how I can help my student better.

Unfortunately not even the guidance teachers themselves are informed of certain kinds of problems a student might have. Parents shouldn't feel shy about taking the first step and inform the school about the problem in the first place. Rest assured that all good teachers want to help their students no matter what difficulties they may have.

marinamaral3 karma

I agree with you. Teachers don't have to know how to deal with the problems of all their students... but humiliate them doesn't seem like a good option. My psychologist often went to my school to talk to all of them, but it was like they didn't want to understand the problem.

moose0987 karma

Does alcohol effect it in anyway?

marinamaral5 karma


marinamaral6 karma

EDIT: I have not deleted the body of the AMA. I think the moderators did it for lack of proofs, but I just post the report of my psychologist and I have already contacted the mods to fix it. This is the report of my psychologist. It is in Portuguese, but you can translate if needed: https://goo.gl/9NQac0 and https://goo.gl/m64MxG

Camohunter6 karma

If you were to meet someone, say in a park, and were able to speak to them but then later found out they went to the same school as you, would you be able to still talk to them?

marinamaral10 karma

There's the crazy thing. If I meet the person in a situation where I can talk to her first, yes, I can keep talking. But while we are in the school, for example, I will be in silence even with that person. Then, when we get out of there, I return to speak normally.

Mackinstyle5 karma

The concept that you're incapable of laughing or making other involuntary noises at times is so fascinating to me. So if you were being tickled relentlessly and became aware that someone who causes it was there, you just stop making sound?

marinamaral1 karma

Exactly! I'll stop talking and get completely in silence, with only my thoughts.

Mackinstyle2 karma

The brain is a magnificent enigma.

marinamaral3 karma

Yes, it is!

rajmahual4 karma

Do you become mute around people you are attracted to?

marinamaral10 karma

It depends on the situation. But I never had any relationship with anyone, so... lol

Innocent_Username4 karma

Have you noticed if there is a specific type of person who affects you condition more like say, authority figures... Etc?

marinamaral6 karma

Not really... This is completely random.

CaptainCare4 karma

How do you deal with the lack of social interaction?

marinamaral13 karma

I'm always learning things on the internet. During that time I learned three languages, learned to paint, draw, calligraphy, some programming things, learned how to edit videos and etc... :) I also love to read books. I deal pretty well with it, but it's something that bothers me sometimes. I'll go to college in August specially to make new friends, and I hope I can take this forward.

kezz1113 karma

I'm just curious, from a medical standpoint has your doctor tried you on beta-blockers (commonly used to treat stage fright and other anxiety disorders) or any other stronger anxiolytics? If so, have they made any difference at all? Have you undergone psychiatric treatment? Was it of any benefit?

marinamaral2 karma

I did psychological treatment and psychiatric treatment, but I didn't have good results. My doctor never took me on beta-blockers, only generic drugs for anxiety. Perhaps this was a mistake...

boredsubwoofer3 karma

If someone was in trouble and you had to go running to ask someone for help, would you be able to speak or not?

marinamaral5 karma

Yes, today I can speak normally with strangers, with certain conditions. But in that situation, yes, I could.

pranav61883 karma

How about over the internet. Do u have selective mutism even if its a group chat?

marinamaral13 karma

I can communicate normally with any person through writing. I just can't speak, emit a sound with my voice.

presumed_nonentity9 karma

Can you talk to someone else in the room if you're communicating with someone you can't talk to over the internet at the same time?

marinamaral8 karma


Huomenna2 karma

What's the worst/most difficult situation you've gotten into because of mutism?

marinamaral4 karma

Every day the teacher made an oral call to see which students were present in class. When she called my name, I couldn't answer that I was there. So she called another student at her desk, in front of all others, showed the paper and asked what was written there. She wrote that I was not present in class, looked at me and gave me a sarcastic laugh. And I liked her. That hurt me a lot. The worst situations can happen in day-to-day. For example, when I'm talking to someone normally, and then comes a person with I'm unable to speak with. Then everything is ruined and I have to stay in silence until that person go away. It's embarrassing. By the time this person comes when I'm speaking normally before becoming silent, I feel physical manifestations of this shame and anxiety. My body starts to get cold, my hands start shaking, my heart gets like crazy.

newtonsfirst2 karma

Hi! Thanks so much for doing an AMA. I'm a dance teacher and I have a 4-year-old student with selective mutism. After about 10 weeks of class (45 minutes a week), I noticed that she has started to make some noises. For example, we do freeze-dance at the end of class and when I prompt them to "dance like their favorite animal," she will make tiny meowing sounds.

Do you think it's possible for someone with selective mutism to move from making these non-English noises to eventually speaking with someone?

Also, are there any tips you have for reaching out to a student with selective mutism? My student is so bright and clearly knows all the answers to my questions, and I try to focus on her nonverbal cues and acknowledge her response, but I feel like I'm not doing all I can.

marinamaral2 karma

Don't try to force her to talk. Never. If you need to ask her something, try to call her and ask with a lower voice. Don't ask aloud in front of everyone, as you normally would with someone else, because everyone starts to wait for a answer. If she doesn't want to speak, say to her that everything is okay and ask her to write on a paper or to do as she wants, just don't be trying to make her talk. Also try to not talk to her in situations where are just you both, because it's also very embarrassing. Usually, when we have more people around, we feel that one of them will soon catch the attention of those who are talking to us, so we feel more comfortable. Feel free to PM me if you want. Thanks for asking!

ParanoidPancreas1 karma

Hi Marina!

I'm a psychologist-in-training and I am fascinated with anxiety disorders (having GAD myself I completely understand how devastating anxiety can be). Will you please share what therapies your psychologists have tried with you, and if any have helped? Have you tried exposure therapy, meditation, or any medications?

Best of luck to you.

marinamaral2 karma

Please, send me a pm! :)

BlastON4201 karma

Hope things get better for you! :)

Besides browsing the internet to pass the time, what else do you do? Any fun hobbies either related or unlrelated to the topic?

marinamaral2 karma

I love to read books! I am fascinated by the world and its diverse cultures. I like to study, to practice calligraphy, to learn new things. I also like to kill my time restoring old photos in Photoshop and to spend some time with my little cousin.


No friends? Tosh! I'll be your friend!

marinamaral2 karma

Yaaay! I would love to have you as my friend!

Mortuusi-7 karma

So if I was to kiss you, and like talk into you around someone you were nervous around, would this help you, or am I just fulfilling my secret fantasies?

marinamaral2 karma

Hahaha maybe it would help me.

Li0nhead-7 karma

A woman who cannot make a sound at certain times. Sounds like perfect Girlfriend material.

You single?

marinamaral6 karma

Hahahahahahahah lol. Yes, I am. :)

biggest_guru_in_town-10 karma

So you suffered the same thing raj did in the big bang theory?(he got over it with beer and sex) Have you tried mind-blowing sex?

marinamaral8 karma

I never watched the show, but the little I know, the character doesn't represent very well what this condition actually means.