Monday, January 15, 2007

Complete breakdown

Sometimes stutterers experience a complete breakdown in their fluency: not just stuttering but suddenly loosing complete control and struggling for words. When does it happen? Does it come randomly or for a reason like emotional stress? Not sure about my own fluency. I have the impression that the more important the message and the more I want to show that I have an important message the less fluent I am. So you should consider yourself lucky that I write about stuttering and science rather than talk to you about it! :-) But a breakdown can also happen in very ordinary situations. The worse is when I talk to someone in authority, not that I am scared of him/her on the contrary! I love to talk to them and challenge them a bit. Presentations can also be challenging for the same reasons.

What is your experience?


Ludovich said...

From 14 years I have motor tics associated to production of the speech (grimaces and clonic movements of the muscles of the face) and they generally are very difficult to control. This is, for me, one of the most embarrassing aspects of the disturbance. The tics began abruptly in the adolescence and, from that time, the breakdown sensation provoked by them always accompanied the moments of bigger disfluency. They were fountain of many uncomfortablenesses. Up to today, in spite of managing to predict them reasonably (what not always happens), is not easy at all to avoid them (only if I to resolve to give up of the sentence and to recommence, or simply to decide to clam up). Besides the tics, also there is a frequent sensation of freezing of the movements of the speech, an awful momentary sensation of paralysis almost parkinsonian.

Today I am 28 years old and do not know how I managed to stand up to today all this terrible condition (it got worse with the time).

Einar said...

What you write sounds familiar to me. I've also noticed a strong increase in my stuttering for the last 2 days, though it's not a complete breakdown yet, but stuttering symptoms have become more intense, more blocks, more intense, and inability to utter a sound for 10 or 20 seconds...
I think it's a mix of factors influencing these ups and downs in fluency over time... The situation, the mood, the person one is speaking to, physical state, the momentary selftrust, the routine in using speech techniques... In my view it's most important to be able to simply accept these ups and down, not to panic, and stay self-confident with the knowledge that sooner or later the speech will improve again (also thanks to regular speech exercises, in order to re-establish "good speaking habits"...

Tom Weidig said...

They started abruptly? At what age? Did something happen then?

Adrian said...

I can relate to the situational breakdowns. Some are certainly related to fear and anxiety, but some are completely random and in completely comfortable situations; I can't figure it out.

I also had a complete speech breakdown when my father died suddenly which lasted a couple of months. I was 25 at the time and my speech had been going reasonably well for some time. However, with the shock of his death I was barely comprehendible. What was odd is that this was the only period of my life in which my speech was a complete non-issue; I was so upset by his death that stuttering seemed like it did not matter. I always thought that if I did not care about my speech, I would be fluent, but this was not the case at all. I was calling family and friends to let them know the arrangements and I was completely unconcerned with my speech, but yet still stuttered horribly.

It would have been interesting if someone had done a brain scan on me at that time. I wonder how it would have compared to more "normal" times of my life.


Rae Ann said...

How do other people react when there is a breakdown? How would you want them to react? Does that affect things at all?

Rob said...

I'm 52, and a lifelong stutterer. My experience has been much like Adrian's; a very weak correlation between stress and breakdowns, but no strong patterns. Breakdowns approaching complete inability to utter sounds can occur when I'm feeling relaxed. High fluency can occur when I'm very anxious. Funnily, my desire to get a point across can affect my fluency either way. Very confusing.

As I've aged, and gradually dropped all my "strategies", and (almost) ceased to care about reactions to my speech, it has vastly improved overall.

How do other people react when there is a breakdown? How would you want them to react? Does that affect things at all?

The reaction I have found most annoying is someone pretending that I hadn't even tried to speak, and carrying on as though I weren't there. Luckily, this has been very rare. In less extreme situations (getting stuck on a particular word), some people try to complete your thought/word. While some stutterers welcome this, it angers me.

Patience is the most welcome response, although it can be difficult (I get impatient with other stutterers myself, much to my shame!).

Rob said...

Tom, you were a theoretical physicist too! Maybe there's a correlation there!

Ludovich said...

"They started abruptly?" Yes.

"At what age?" 14 years old.

"Did something happen then?" Nothing very special. Or maybe… I remember that in that time some of my teachers were passing lectures to be presented orally in classroom. Since I was conscious of my difficulty, I tried to decorate the whole text of the lecture and repeated it exhaustively up to make it almost automatic. In one occasion, I came at decorating, word for word, a whole text of 12 pages! I think that there can be here an interesting point of contact with the focal dystonias that affect virtuose musicians that repeat exhaustively scales in his instruments.

Tom Weidig said...

Hi Rob,

you did theoretical physics?

What are you doing now?

OliverTwix said...

Hello Tom

How can i contact you ?
I didn't manage to read your Email

I have something to ask you
(Not about your message)


Rob said...

Software developer.

I got my PhD from University of Alberta in '87, did a couple years post-doc at University of Toronto, then a year as Research Associate there (QCD corrections to b->sγ decay).

Tom Weidig said...

it is tom DO T weidig a t physics DOT org

Law Student said...

My complete breakdowns are so sporadic and varied that it's hard to highlight one specific type. The most common are when I have to cold call a customer service place to ask for a specific person with a first and last name. Even calling my son's school is a nightmare...introducing myself and then asking for my son or giving some information. I could NEVER be a tele-marketer.

I also have much difficulty telling jokes because my brain knows that the success of the joke is dependent upon there is stress involved in delivering the punchline or key information in a timely fashion that is conducive for humor.

Granville Kirkup said...

My fluency has improved greatly with medication - first Zyprexa, and then Abilify. BUT, about three years ago I developed an annoying behavior of clenching my mouth during speech. Now I can talk great, but people can't understand me! The Mayo Clinic had never heard of the condition. Has anyone else experienced anything like this?

Tom Weidig said...

Hi Granville,

is it you who has donated 1 million dollar to Jerry Maguire's research centre?

Best wishes,

Granville Kirkup said...

Tom: Yes, I did endow a chair at UCI for Dr Maguire, so that he can continue with his research on stuttering. I think it has great promise.

Anonymous said...

Are you still on Abilify, and if so, is it still working for you?

Queen of Spain said...


Hi, are you taking Abilify currently? I am taking it right now, I'm on 5 mg, and it has been about 3 weeks on the 5 mg, and before that was 2 weeks on 2.5 mg. I think Abilify has been helping my fluency, but lately, the past 3 days, and once last week, my stuttering has flared up a little more. I'm not sure if it's just because I'm talking more and I'm noticing the stutter more, or if I need a higher dosage of Abilify, maybe 10 mg. If you are on Abilify, what dosage are you on?

Anyone one else on Abilify on here?
What dosage? Is it working for you? Has it made your stuttering worse at all?