Pselismophobia (fear of stuttering): symptoms, causes and treatment

Pselismophobia is the intense and persistent fear of stuttering. It is a fear that often worsens and prolongs stuttering. It is also a fear linked to social phobias.

Below, we’ll take a look at what psellismophobia is, what are some of its main features and causes, as well as the most common treatment for social phobias.

    Pselismophobia: Fear of stuttering

    The word “psellismophobia” or “pselismophobia” is made up of the term “psellism” which means “stuttering” and “phobos” meaning “fear”. In this sense, pselismophobia is the persistent and irrational fear of stuttering (in the disorder of the fluency of speech). It is a phobia linked to different fears of engaging in verbal interactions, such as glossophobia, lalophobia, or lalophobia.

    For the former, pselismophobia is often considered a type of social phobia or a characteristic of the latter. Social phobia, on the other hand, is characterized by an intense, persistent and excessive fear of one or more social situations, as well as by the obligation to perform actions in front of others.

    The above can happen in front of known or unknown people, however the fear is not the people or the interaction per se, but the humiliation, the discomfort and the possibility of being compared or evaluated.

      main symptoms

      In social phobia, the most common feared situations are speaking in public, starting or having conversations with new people, talking to authority figures, being interviewed and going. at parties. Exposure to these generates anxiety and its corresponding physiological correlate: sweating, increased heart rate, hyperventilation, Decreased gastrointestinal activity, etc., and sometimes panic attacks.

      Other common manifestations are dry mouth, nerve twitching, and rash. Often, these responses are generated anticipatively, that is, before exposure to social interactions. Likewise, these responses are a consequence of the activity of different systems such as the autonomic nervous system, the cognitive system and the behavioral system.

      To counteract the anxiety reaction, the person it generates different social interaction avoidance behaviors. These end up having a significant and negative impact on their daily activities. In fact, it is the latter criterion (the discomfort that clearly interferes with a person’s life) that makes the difference between a social phobia and social anxiety (also called shyness).

      When it comes to adults, the intensity and disproportion of fear is easily recognizable, but when it occurs in children, this recognition does not pass.

        the causes

        Social phobias they usually develop in adolescence (Frequently around the age of 15). The latter can be related precisely to this stage of development, where situations involving external evaluation increase significantly. The first is in addition to the demands generated by new environments and the need to establish certain roles in a social system beyond the family.

        Additionally, social phobias occur more frequently in women, which may be linked to Western values ​​where shyness is incompatible with the male role, but is socially accepted in women. On the other hand, it is more common for them to occur in people of lower socioeconomic status, a problem that may indicate discomforts related to unequal hierarchies and power relations (Bados, 2009).

        In the specific case of pselismophobia, it is important to consider the same fear of stuttering it is one of the main causes of persistent stuttering. As such, it can trigger a constant avoidance of speaking and interacting with other people, especially if these are the situations described above.

        In this sense, beyond being a particular phobia, pselismophobia is, on the one hand, one of the causes of stuttering, and on the other hand, it is one of the manifestations of social phobia. Thus, to know the specific causes of fear of stuttering, it is necessary to explore persistent fear in broader social situations.


        Among the most widely used treatments for social phobias, we find live exposure in a natural environment, exposure by imagination, Social skills training, cognitive restructuring, self-learning, applied relaxation techniques, virtual reality and simulation (Bados, 2009).

        In addition, stress reduction techniques typical of the cognitive-behavioral model have recently been used, such as educational supportive therapy with explanations, demonstrations and discussions on the determinants of phobia. As for the maintenance program group therapy approaches have also been carried out, Once the anxiety related to social interactions diminished (ibid.).

        Finally, and given the prevalence, it may be important to explore and work on empowerment from the critique of gender values ​​and socio-economic inequalities, so that social interactions can take place with more confidence and assertion.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Bados, A. (2009). Social phobia. Faculty of Psychology. Department of Personality, Psychological Assessment and Treatment. University of Barcelona. Accessed September 27, 2018.Available at
        • Psellismophobia. Accessed September 27, 2018.Available at

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