Mutism since traumatic event

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

A loved one is suffering from mutism since experiencing a traumatic event. She is not talking at all. Not to family. Not to anyone. I have been looking online and it seems selective mutism is an anxiety problem. She is also listless, does not engage in activities that she normally has before this, does not eat or sleep well, and seems distressed when she has to leave the house or be without the company of a family member. What is the best course of action to getting her back to her old self and over this issue? I think therapy might help but not if she is not talking. I also do not want to make her talk if she is not ready to talk but this is not normal. Thanks for your time.

A: You must be beside yourself with worry about your family member. It’s normal for someone to have an anxiety reaction to a traumatic event. When a person can’t settle back down on her own, it’s up to those who love her to give her the help and support she needs — just as you are trying to do.

I suggest that you find a specialist in psychological trauma in your area and make an appointment for you and others who are close to your family member. Confer with the psychologist about how best to help her feel safe and how to bring her into treatment. During a meeting among those who care under the direction of a professional, you’ll all be able to figure out who should do what. Please don’t wait to do this. The longer any distress goes untreated, the harder it can be to treat.

I wish you all well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Jan 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). Mutism since traumatic event. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/01/06/mutism-since-traumatic-event/

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