Coping with Psellismophobia (Fear of Stammering)

It’s almost as though a fear of anything has a phobia named after it. For those who fear stammering when speaking, that phobia is Psellismophobia and is specific to stammering. Not the fear of speaking, but the fear of stammering when you speak.

That’s the Achilles heel of everyone with a stammer. It’s not the speech impediment itself, but the crippling fear that leads you to experience heightened levels of social anxiety because of the paralysing fear of stammering.

The fear of stammering

I find it fascinating that there’s no known cause for stammering, yet it’s possible to reverse your speech problems and acquire fluency. It’s been done by people before me and there will be more people in the future who achieve fluency despite being hindered throughout their life with a stammer.

What’s fascinating is the programmability of the brain. Just like you can program a computer to do what you want, it’s just as possible to program your brain to even think the way you want.

Stammering is not genetic, nor is it a brain disorder. That being said, there have been research studies reporting that MRI (brain imaging) scans have shown slight differences in certain parts of the brain of those who stammer and those who don’t. Even if there is a difference in the brain’s functionality, it’s still possible to retrain how you speak and still achieve fluency.

It’s all linked to behaviour.

For that reason, it’s fair to say that instead of speech therapy, behavioural therapy could very well have a positive impact on improving your speech.

Not just any behavioural therapy though because you’ll likely find that if you search for information on that, your results will be based on cognitive behavioural therapy. A better practice is the holistic approach of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy.

The British Stammering Association has an interesting write-up about what’s involved in MBCT here.

The basic of “mindfulness” is to focus on the here and now. Being mindful of the present and leaving the past in the past.

That’s beneficial because the fear of speaking itself is a direct result of childhood experiences. Anyone with a stammer will have experienced embarrassment, shame, and unpleasant emotions in their past. The fear of speaking is there because it’s something we aim to avoid. To avoid the feelings of shame, guilt, discomfort, ridicule, embarrassment, and anything that makes us feel less than perfect.

That’s likely why there are so many phobias because we all have fears. Sometimes they are irrational, other times… not so much.

I’m not saying that having a fear of stammering is anything irrational, but I am saying that you can take control of it. All that’s needed is to face the fear. It’s the same with any phobia. Tackle it head on and stop trying as hard to avoid it.

Avoidance tactics can become habitual but they are always short-lived. The stammer will resurface and the only way to keep it at bay is when you acknowledge it, challenge it, and do what you can to retrain your attitude towards the stammer and see it as a part of your personality and not a disorder. It’s not a disability. It’s a unique characteristic of you. It’s how you speak and nothing to be ashamed of.

Change your attitude towards it, lose the fear of stammering and you’ll find that soon enough you’ll be able to speak more freely even with strangers and lose much of the discomfort you likely associate with speaking.