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Why some people suffer from a stutter (bbc.com)
163 points by pseudolus 36 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 125 comments

My young son, now 7 (no stutter), did stutter at age 4 and had some level of anxiety. My wife and I discovered that he has an allergy to annatto, a natural seed used for orange dye & nutty flavor, that triggered the stuttering. The stuttering was likely due to slight inflammation in his brain. In this case, slice of organic American (orange) cheese caused him to stutter within 10 minutes. Then we could tell when he had goldfish crackers for snack at school (dad, they weren't purple crackers, they were orange -- said with a strong stutter). His stuttering disappeared within a couple months of removing annatto foods from his diet. What about the annatto ~triggered inflammation, we do not know (I have an idea, but it's pretty hard to test).

Oh wow, incredible comment. I looked this up and apparently allergies are pretty strongly linked to stuttering. It's a connection I'd never assume to be possible.

As someone who sometimes has weeks of cluttered speech, and weeks where I'm perfectly fine, I'm now wondering if diet could be a contributing factor.

I get the stutter when Im anxious. I get anxious typically when I dont get enough me time. Regular doses of solitude keeps my stutter away.

Food allergy is one of the reasons I theorize many people find different seemingly unrelated symptoms disappear when either fasting or on a low carbohydrate diet (even things like seizures).

It alters your diet so dramatically and greatly reduces the types of processed foods you can eat.

I try to dry fast for 15 - 20 hours 1/day per week. I can't really do that for my son and do not recommend it for most children.

This is really fascinating thanks so much for sharing. How did you discover the allergy if the only effect was stuttering?

We noticed he was more tentative and starting to stutter around the winter holidays, but could not figure out what the pattern was. Then one early evening before dinner we gave him a slice of organic, orange American cheese (milk, salt, enzymes, annatto). He started stuttering shortly thereafter. He'd had ice cream the previous day with no issues. Then we noticed it after mac'n cheese. Upon reflection, his grandparents brought cheddar duckies to snack on during the holidays. At that point we started eliminating it and did not notice a stutter. Sometimes after pre-school, when he was stuttering, I asked him how his <non-orange> crackers were and he would always say "orange" crackers. We avoided anything obviously "orange" and the problem went away in a number of weeks. It popped up again while eating chicken tenders (cheap ski lodge food) and then we started noticing that the breading in many packaged chicken tenders had annatto for color. The same with cheap vanilla ice cream. He's all good now though -- we were lucky.

Amazing! Congratulations on spotting it. How old is he now? Does the annatto affect him still?

Do you know if this is known in the scientific community? I am not a speech language researcher but I’ve never heard of allergy induced stuttering but the inflammation hypothesis really strikes a chord.

He is 8 now and minor amounts of annatto, by accident, do not seem to trigger it. We taught him what to look for and avoid anything orangish in color without asking us. I do have a friend whose nephew throws up when he has annatto, but I haven't come across the stuttering connection. I should amend my comment above, we ruled out dairy as a cause given the milk, yogurt, kefir as well.

Yeah annatto seems to be really problematic for many people.

Ruled out as causes of the issue or excluded from his diet?

We try to exclude it from his diet and minimize it in the house, although he's shown no serious anaphylaxis from it. Typo above, he is 7, not 8. At some point trials for food additives would be helpful...for everyone. I certainly cannot speak to all of the stuttering scenarios, but avoiding a few is better than nothing.

This sounds like something that should be followed up with placebo experiments.

For sure, but how would that be possible with NIH human experimentation guidelines?

Take a bunch of people and remove annatto from the diet of half of them. For the annatto foods or their placebo substitutes, grind up and dye the food so the eater can't distinguish from placebo.

Fascinating. I also had an allergy to “orange” colored foods as a kid, but it looked like asthma, not a stutter. However, the very worst was orange soda, which was hospitalizing. I wonder if there was any relation to your son’s stutter.

Possibly https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartrazine - a common food colouring with a history of possible adverse effects.

> I have an idea, but it's pretty hard to test

I'd be intrigued to hear more about your theory

Neuroquant imaging filters for MRI are supposed to detect changes like this, but are quite expensive and not readily available. The pediatricians shrugged their shoulders. Functional medicine doctors would be more willing to pursue this approach (they like data). The trick is finding the root cause of the swelling, which is usually an immune response to a protein it does not like and wants to isolate. I am unaware of other locations in my son's body that become inflamed by Annatto, his stutter was/is the first notable symptom.

Is it the Annatto itself that collected in my son's brain/frontal lobe and triggered inflammation? A brain scan at that time would probably help shed light.

Was something else there that Annatto reacted with/killed and my son's system inflamed due to the residual proteins (it's used as an anti-parasitic in native cultures - and yes, herbs can cause a die off as most lyme+ patients have demonstrated repeatedly - and I will get forehead pressure from a die-off, my son might be similar in that regard)?

In short, there's not enough data or an easy way to gather it.

Not entirely relevant so I apologise but your situation reminded me of the "inflamation theory of disesase":


"Inflammation has long been a well-known symptom of many infectious diseases, but molecular and epidemiological research increasingly suggests that it is also intimately linked with a broad range of non-infectious diseases, perhaps even all of them"

It's relevant. Mycotoxins (mold produced), and metals can also cause inflammation. In general, it's the immune system trying to sequester or isolate foreign material.

Wow, I stutter, and have forever, and did not consider it an allergy..

My way of treating it, hat, has been successful was psychedelics.


Can I ask what did you try? I've stuttered all my life and have recently come across the potential of psychedelics.

LSD and Mushrooms. They work wonders, I'd start with microdoses, though a good plateau trip works for years after.

Microdoses and an introduction to the culture of these chems, there's ever more material of these online, then, 15 years ago when I first experimented and that's both exciting and sad because if you were to rely solely on social media/reddit/twitter ancedotes you really won't get the full package.

I'd look at forums, erowid and published research journals for the full picture. :)

My stutter has been my primary source of stress/anxiety for that last 12 years. Its impacted my time in college and then later at Grad School. I've had good days and bad (more good days lately), but i'll never forget the terror I used to feel whenever I had to present something in front of other people.

I skipped classes to avoid doing that, i bombed many a presentation because I had trouble with certain sentences and it impacted my grades. I think not being able to make the best of time in grad school is something I can get over eventually, but a bigger regret I have is not being able to make meaningful connections with my peers in school because I'd avoid hanging out with people because of my anxiety over my stutter. In a way it almost feels like I never experienced

I still have issues with words starting with "A" which is unfortunate since my name starts with an A. I still speak really quickly which i think comes from a habit of trying to get through speech quickly to get it over with.

I do believe that a lot of it is mostly because of my anxiety as I speak just fine when i'm relaxed, and I've been trying to work on using different words when I feel like certain phrases/words will cause problems.

It’s ironic you stutter on A because I stutter on D and M, my initials, probably more than any other sounds. Stuttering is such a head game that I think it must be that you end up stuttering more on sounds that are more important to you. For example: I worked in finance a while and started stuttering on the word “million” more than I ever did before! Then I stopped working in finance and that basically went away. Still kind of a tough word, but not very problematic. These days I’m working on a messenger and I kid you not the word “message” is hard to say. It’s pretty absurd.

That's interesting and even as something who doesn't stutter as a condition, I have sometimes when nervous or feeling exposed such as when introducing myself.

I was watching a streamer (Sweet_Anita) talk about her Tourette Syndrome and it was really similar, when she is feeling awkward the tics are frequent and obvious but when she's highly engaged and talking about something she cares about it doesn't present much at all.

this is a fascinating pattern. have you tried drinking or otherwise (legally) inducing a relaxed state to see if there's a difference? this could help isolate if anxiety or "overthinking" triggers the stuttering.

Interesting. I stutter on K which is what my name starts with.

I am sorry to hear your experiences. I hope you're in a better position mentally - I feel like it is a feedback loop effect: Stuttering causes anxiety which causes more stuttering. I had similar (not stuttering) problems when speaking in social settings. I discovered some techniques like breathing control, always thinking about what life means to me - "The king and the pawn, all go back into the same box after the game is over". I found that through some behavioral therapy, I don't have social anxiety because every situation I handle - I handle it like I am in no way obligated to please these people and even if shit hits the fan, it is not the end of the world. We are all here for a temporary period in our lives...some 80 years or so.

Not sure if this would work for others, but this is how I see the world. It helps me battle stress.

Wow, you are describing by exact experience. Except I did get over social anxiety eventually, mostly.

You may already be familiar but you might be interested in checking out the comedian Drew Lynch https://www.youtube.com/user/WordsRHard

He developed his stutter years ago after a softball accident (hit him in the throat). He ended up getting into standup comedy and is becoming pretty big.

All this is to say that the "impediment" actually adds character to him and makes him a lot more interesting and memorable in good ways. Maybe you can reframe your stutter in this positive way as well.

This is my exact experience. I am in college right now and I avoid taking courses that have a presentation component. My stutter really comes up if people are paying attention to me. Many a times, I have ended up saying I don't know the answer when I did know but just could not say it and did not want to waste everyone's time.

I took speech therapy classes once, but unfortunately did not complete them. My stutter is still there but I can now at least reduce it a lot.

I have a stutter. I went to a speech and language therapist, which helped a little bit. For the longest time I couldn't say words like "Wednesday" (stuttering on the W) or even simple phrases like "Yes sir/ma'am" when at secondary school (I believe this is known as a "block", my mouth just wouldn't work; I froze up).

I'm not entirely sure what helped me overcome the problem. If I'm relaxed, my speech is fluent. If I take deep breaths and think about what I'm going to say, the stutter rarely shows up. There are, of course, some words that I mispronounce still like "manipulative".

The only real ongoing issue is the learned habit of speaking quickly to try and overcome the stutter. Internally, I can understand exactly what I said, but externally it apparently comes out as a stream of unintelligible words. That's something I'm still working on.

The stutter comes back when I'm tired, nervous, or stressed. Apart from that, it's barely noticeable which I am pleased about.

How curious to know that it's all in the brain rather than a psychological cause such as anxiety which is what my parents used to assume. Perhaps I shall have to volunteer to help with future research.

I had therapy for years as well, didn't help.

Until one day. They had taught us a very artificial way to speak, a sort of very slow, very loose su-su-stuttering on purpose. 15-year old me hated it.

Then they made us go into stores, and ask for things using this technique. A couple of AA batteries, in my case, using that technique. I dreaded this, thought it was completely ridiculous.

But the guy behind the counter didn't care one bit, bless him. He didn't appear to notice anything and just helped me with my batteries.

That single exercise hammered home that it was ok for me to stutter. Completely unthinkable idea, before then.

That realization reduced the problem by half in one day, and I never really cared about it anymore. It gradually disappeared in twenty five years or so after that without therapy or whatever. It ceased to be a problem for me on that day.

Interesting. This is basically exposure therapy which is used to treat a number of anxiety related conditions.

For example, for men who have shy bladders (and it can get so bad they can’t pee outside their own homes), the therapy is to go to a public washroom and stand at a urinal for 5 min.

Yeah, 5 min. Don’t even try and pee.

Similar to you, they realize that their anxiety around people caring or even noticing isn’t based on how people would actually react.

The anxiety subsides and typically the physical manifestation of that anxiety also goes away.

Apparently works for fear of heights, fear of flying, etc. in those cases the anxiety is less around other people’s reactions (though it can be - people are fearful they will freak out and embarrass themselves) but just the idea that exposing yourself to anxiety provoking situations for long enough (and in a controlled manner) will cause your brain to react less and less to it in the future.

> exposing yourself to anxiety provoking situations for long enough (and in a controlled manner) will cause your brain to react less and less to it in the future.

Works for me with heights to some extent. When I go skiing, the first day of the season is terrible on the chair lifts. Then it gets better. There's still some height threshold I can't deal with very well, so it's not a perfect solution. But there is an improvement.

I love this story, thanks for sharing it. It's interesting how frequent behaviors can be changed by seemingly unrelated things, like this tactic.

What if the stress level affects the dopamine level and that affects the stutter?

I have a stutter too and this was a very interesting article to add to my "head-canon" on why people stutter. My stutter is also affected by moods. Maybe we're living -- or rather, speaking -- on the edge of the brain-body connection.

I had a roommate with a stutter, but never when telling a joke, talking to the dog, or singing. We are way more complicated than we understand!

"never when telling a joke"

Rowan Atkinson has a stutter, but not when he is in character:


"It comes and goes. I find when I play a character other than myself, the stammering disappears. That may have been some of the inspiration for pursuing the career I did."

The singing part has been investigated:


> As illustrated in this paper, singing represents a promising therapeutic tool in a variety of neurological disorders. Singing is particularly useful in ameliorating some of the associated speech-motor difficulties because of features such as continuous voicing, decreased production rate, and increased awareness of individual phonemes. Although the precise mechanisms underlying the efficacy of singing remain largely unexplored, a number of hypotheses have been proposed

I stutter on jokes all the time, it’s pretty pathetic. Good for him, sounds uncharacteristic of a stutterer to be honest. But I’ve never heard of anyone who stutters when they sing. Something about singing makes the fluency a lot easier.

It's not pathetic -- do you look at someone in a wheelchair and think how pathetic they are?

It's not pathetic -- it's just some fucking bullshit that happens. We need to cut through all the bullshit and love ourselves. :)

Do you stutter when you are not hearing yourself? For example, if you record yourself with headphones on playing very loud music so that you can not hear your own voice, will you still stutter saying all those things or reading the stuff you stutter on?

Most of the time, yes.

> How curious to know that it's all in the brain rather than a psychological cause such as anxiety

I'm not sure this model of thinking is fully correct. In a way, it's like saying that muscle cramps are all in the muscle rather than in their lack of hydration or their being overworked.

The substance of thought, emotion, and cognition is synapses firing, neurotransmitters transmitting, and neural connections being made. Like muscles, their movements flow as a result of environmental inputs, and environmental inputs that are stronger create stronger adaptations towards them.

The article doesn't say that it's all in the brain.

Yes, that's true. Clumsy wording on my part, sorry.

> If I'm relaxed, my speech is fluent.

Exactly like me. I can say any word, surprisingly in a better way, when I'm alone. I struggle primarily with words starting with T, D like Trajectory, Tutorial, and few more.

Seems intuitive to me. Most things that are at the edge of my ability I can do in relaxed practice but not under stress. Mouth aerobics are just one example.

> If I take deep breaths and think about what I'm going to say, the stutter rarely shows up.

Interesting how that works isn’t it?

Interesting, I don't have a stutter but regularly have issues saying 'statistics' correctly.

It's a tough word with a lot of t's, and s'

Have a stutter too, I was in speech therapy from when I was 7, and one of the techniques that worked best was to focus on breathing and relaxation. When I blocked on words, the levels of tension in my body was/is extremely high. Specifically in my diaphragm, when there is tension, my chest is more rigid and the tension in mouth and tongue is so much stronger. So they had me focusing on relaxing my diaphragm which would allow the other tension to be less. So to focus on my breathing and being relaxed. (and yes I could sing fluidly, but my speech was very very blocky.)

The interesting thing was that this required thought and awareness, which is a bit difficult when you are younger. As I got older my confidence came, so became more relaxed in company and therefore less tense and so likely to stutter. I still do on occasion, but I am less concerned about it these days.

Something I've always been curious about: does the physiological stress or the psychological stress come first? Do you think "I'm stuttering" first, or does that tension you experience precede it?

Good question. For me it's just a mixed bundle and self fulfilling. I can map out the stuttering words and sounds and I jam up when I realize I can't replace the word elegantly. My stutters are now so far between that people are thrown back when it appears suddenly.

There is an anticipation you experience, it feeds back from previous instances of stuttering on a sound and can ingrain itself pretty strongly in your psyche. There’s a word for this, “anticipation” or something.

Thinking about it, they both feed each other, if you start with on you will get the other.

I was in speech therapy from a young age, too, and breathing helped, but I had to go a bit further than just focusing on breath control. What really flipped the switch for me, after I had breath control down, was elongating the initial sounds of words when I felt a bit unsteady in my speech. This gets a bit complicated for stop consonants, like b or d; luckily, drawing out the sound made when everything is "in position" helps. For b this is m, and for d it's n.

Anyway, it's a "resetting" technique, forcing me to coordinate everything by holding things steady for a bare fraction of a second when they threaten to fall out of sync and cause a cascading failure. It wouldn't work without breathing, but breathing alone didn't quite do it for me.

(Interestingly, relaxing wasn't quite a necessity: I never stuttered when I yelled in anger.)

I learned that too! Weird, it is like you have tohave this whole stack in place to perform an action. Not to dissimilar to the the day job.

My son has been in speech therapy since about 5 or 6. He is 10 now and still stutters.

It is worth it to keep going, he is figuring things out still, both himself and this thing he is figuring out, and the technique and insight may not be the cure now but at some point he will piece things together and what he has learned may help.

Good luck to you and your boy.

I got rid of my childhood stutter near instantly when someone told me that it was becuase I was thinking three sentences ahead of where my mouth was. All I needed to do was slow down the "speech in your head". I could still think ahead; I just needed to not internally vocalize my future words, and it all went away like magic.

Something like that for me too when I was a toddler. It was a syncing issue.

People consider me articulate and eloquent.

When I'm not regulating I can still ramble until I'm out of breath. Never stuttering though. More like a mid-atlantic improv.

Oh god I feel like this describes me super well. I think my solution is to practice speaking a lot and act more relaxed.

I never thought of this problem as stuttering, but other people have brought this exact same commentary up to me.

Same! Bad stutter in early elementary school, but fine later after some speech therapy. Mine was most likely a sign of the ADHD to come, as well as a dash of my tourettes.

This, plus trying to speak on empty lungs, was my problem when I was young.

I used to have a feeling on what words I would stutter, I still do, and accordingly pick a trajectory of words that would divert me from that particular word, which would sometimes comes a bit off, most of the time successful. Paradoxically I would scan what I would say in advance, and usually while talking would scan sentences that would come very soon in connection to the one I am speaking. If I notice there is a possible stutter word I would do what is possible to avoid that word, and think of a substitute. If I cannot find a word or the stutter word is coming very soon, I would prolong the current sentence or thought adding extra words or doing some non verbal gestures. After many years this practice became fluid.. I used to suffer much and wonder how my life would play out if I didnt suffer, I would imagine all kinds of scenarios that might have happened, situations where I stayed silent instead of speaking up. Sometimes I would notice people would get tired of listening to me or, more true, if I senses I had difficulty in talking I would not say what and how I really wanted to say.. I did learn to stay silent and listen to other people, I also became a musician and sometimes I wondered is it because of my stutter. Who knows, it has been interesting for sure..

Exactly the same for me.

I have a stutter. Years of speech therapy as a kid did very little to solve the problem. The only thing that helped somewhat was a device called the "Speakeasy". It looked similar to a hearing aid, and essentially played back what I said to me. The insight was that when people who stutter speak along with someone, they tend to stutter less. I've also noticed I don't stutter at all when singing along to a song. It kind of ties in with this study; your brain knows exactly what speech to form, so the "weak" connections are sufficient.

Really happy about the progress being made in this field. Stuttering has been both a cause and result of my social anxiety, which people often mistake for aloofness or worse. Can't wait to try new therapies!

I was once given a device called the 'Edinburgh Masker', it was a set of headphones and a throat mike (I looked like a ww2 bomber pilot..) and it played a tone when you got stuck on a word. It was very weird, but quite interesting, as the tone would be so distracting that you forgot about the block or the repeated sound!

what is this spammy syndicated stuff

orig article: https://www.knowablemagazine.org/article/mind/2020/new-neuro...

HN commentary from two weeks ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24382722

Has anyone noticed Elon Musk stutter? Almost with every sentence he says there's a word or two he visibly struggles to pronounce.

Yeah, to me he seems like he's got a lot of thoughts going on in his mind, and so there's always something making him hesitate to put out the next word. It's like when you're in deep thought about something and trying to explain it to someone at the same time, you end up with contention on the stdout and it looks weird.

A huge number of HN folks seem to have a stutter issue, maybe because they are also having a lot of thoughts while talking.

Interestingly another guy who interrupts his current thoughts is currently campaigning for re-election.

I had a stutter as a young kid, went to speech therapy, the usual story here it seems. While some breathing and relaxation helped, mentally I always had a distinct picture of why the stutter was there.

For me, it was always the simple appearance that my mind was thinking far faster than I could talk, and that would get in the way the farther I thought ahead and could no longer "multitask" on the two "threads" coherently, forcing a bit of a reset. As I got older, I lost my stutter mostly but I speak quite fast. To the point that many of my friends have to get used to my speech when the see me for the first time in a while. I have to consciously tone down the speed for some public speaking events (which I generally handle well otherwise). This is something I honed mostly over middle/high school. In some ways, I solved this whole issue in reverse - speeding up my speech rather than slowing my thoughts, though of course there was a bit of meeting in the middle.

I wonder if this section might be relevant to my case:

> During the 1990s, Maguire and colleagues were among the first to use a certain kind of brain scan, positron emission tomography, on people who stutter. They found too much dopamine activity in these people’s brains. That extra dopamine seems to stifle the activity of some of the brain regions that Chang and others have linked to stuttering.

If excess dopamine actually speeds up thought, that could more or less match what I experience. I have no idea if it would be experienced that way or not though.

I'd note that I would never seek treatment for this now with the stutter mostly gone. I consider my brain speed / speech speed a bit of a superpower or advantage in many ways and mitigating that as needed for specific scenarios is far more preferable to me than slowing down my brain to be limited to my "brain multitasking" speed limit.

Based on reading other posts here, it seems like fast thoughts tie back to a lot of people. I was lucky enough not to experience the nervous/anxiety part of it. I'm now wondering if that's an entirely separate experience, or simply an addition the mind can add on as one experiences stuttering.

My son (10) stutters. We thought we had gotten him help early enough so the problem would be "licked" just as so many others before him had done so but it helped some but the stuttering is still there. I don't know what else we could have done but this failure to help him cure his stuttering is one that left me feeling guilty and also angry (at no one in particular, just indiscriminate anger) and this spilled over into my marriage which is on its way to officially dissolving, sometime next year. Of course, it is a rich tapestry of reasons that has led my marriage's failure but the stuttering played its part.

Much respect for the honestly, introspection I can only imagine it takes to write that, and thank you for the perspective. I stutter and there have been discrete times I’ve noticed my mom being embarrassed, ashamed of me for it. She’s always been a great parent and really supportive, but to be honesty I can’t blame her: it must be frustrating seeing this develop and take hold in your child and not being able to beat it. It’s a seriously complicated thing, so while I thought man that’s really petty of you mom, at the same time I understood how she must feel. Anyway, brutal it ruined your marriage. Sorry to hear that. I have a newborn son and it’s really something watching to see if he will inherit this. I think if he does, that’s ok: there’s a lot worse you can inherit, a lot worse. That’s the thing about stuttering, it’s all in your head and you tend to blow it out of proportion which only makes it worse than it is or could be. I hope to come to terms with this stuttering to some extent, but don’t feel guilty or bad about yourself if you don’t completely.

I stutter too. It's was hard for both me and my parents. I know they always felt guilty, but it wasn't clear what they could have done differently. We tried therapy, and I think it was early enough too and it didn't make much of a difference initially. Please don't feel guilty. Thinking back, I think my stuttering got a bit better when my parents stopped correcting, or paying attention to it as much (at the advice of a therapist, I found out later).

Kids have a very good knack for picking the emotional state of their parents. They may not be able to articulate their feelings, but they can tell if the parent feels guilty, sad, angry, anxious. At least for me anxiety made it a bit worse. Try to find friends and family members who would be accepting and understand and maybe that would help some.

Forgive me if I sounded preachy or too direct, everyone is different of course, hope some of the advice helped. I wish you and your son all the best.

I think it is a wonder that a system as complex as speech does not have more externalized problems (I know there are others, but fewer than I'd expect given the number of systems speech and language touch).

And the brain does all that (and everything else) for something like 20 Watts

This is a good point. I think this can (partly) be explained by the significance of language in the evolution human communities. We can imagine how speech impediments might have a negative correlation with survivability, on both the individual and group levels. I imagine groups with good communication would hunt better, and form deeper relationships. And individuals with exceptionally good communication would rise as leaders and coordinators.

This might be why we do not see many problems with speech (in comparison to its complexity). Evolution thinks this one ability is extremely important for passing on genes.

At least one researcher (Joseph Jordania) has a theory that articulated speech arose in East Asia and back migrated. He hypothesizes that speech disorders like stuttering are more common in European and African populations, the last to acquire articulated speech in his model and thus having less time to winnow out bad alleles.

A rather unlikely theory[1], if only because backwards gene flow was until recently anathema within the mainstream of human evolutionary genetics, but one that is readily testable. Unfortunately the jury is still out on the prevalence of stuttering in, e.g., China. Current studies suggest that stuttering is very rare in China. But the counterargument is that social stigma keeps stutterers hidden and nobody has looked hard enough to discover them. And to his credit Jordania agrees that the existing data, while favorable to his hypothesis, is underwhelming and that true prevalence remains an open question.

[1] I like his approach more generally, though. Jordania's broader theory for the emergence of human cooperative behavior is the only one I've ever encountered that works in a classical Darwinian genetic model. All the others are implicitly or explicitly dependent on group selection, which is facially contradictory to Darwinian genetics and otherwise has yet to be shown in nature. Group selection might still be a thing, but regardless of whether Jordania's model is literally true in the specifics, Jordania successfully shows that you can find a series of eminently plausible steps that remain perfectly consonant with the selfish gene model; you don't need recourse to an unproven and seemingly contradictory extension.

Man, this article is super scary, accurate and hits too close to home.

It's the first time I've ever seen published a link between dopamine and stuttering.

As someone that has ADHD, and stutters - it's simply, wow. Just wow.

>risperidone, olanzapine and lurasidone.

>So Maguire wondered: could blocking dopamine be the answer? Conveniently, many antipsychotic drugs do just that. Over the years, Maguire has conducted small, successful clinical studies with these medications including risperidone, olanzapine and lurasidone. The result: “Your stuttering won’t completely go away, but we can treat it,” he says.


> Ecopipam

Well, a benzo, but I've never heard it before, but it makes total sense, it's ironic, but for me, it works 100% to make me focus, talk, think, be. Ritalin, caffeine, adderal works too, but, it's different.


Using Etizolam, Ativan, Valium, works great, for me, wonders, and I don't really become "addicted" to it = there's an immediate threshold where it's effective to where I become tired and sleep. I've read stories about people who abuse them, and my tolerance never escapes the basics medicinal dose which makes it super interesting as well.

So much excitement, answers, questions, in something I just accepted and found natural remedies too over time thinking "oh it's anxiety." oh it's "just my ADHD" oh it's "just me becoming more introverted."

About 5 to 10% of kids, according to [0] begin to stutter temporarly. My little one started to stutter when she was 3 and after a few days nearly stopped talking altogether because she rather did not speak than stutter, to see this hurt badly. Before that she was actively communicating and joking with us. We felt like we lost a deep connection to her feelings, her emotions, like we lost her. I called a speech therapists and they told me that kids can start to stutter as they develop their language skills and they only start therapy if the stuttering goes on for more than a few months. We had some hard weeks while trying to follow the tips in [1] but luckily it went away. Seeing that she decided not to talk anymore, the effect that stuttering had on her, opened my eyes on what it might mean for someone who suffers from stuttering. All the best for everyone whose affected!

[0] https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/stuttering#who

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/going-beyond-intelli...

I have stuttered all my life. The best explanation to date I have studied and had the pleasure of being apart of is the Stuttering Valsalva Hypothesis. Look it up its a real eye opener and explains every aspect as to why stuttering happens in early childhood and for some persists into adult hood. Personally stuttering has forced me to live outside the box, to question life in a deep and meaningful way and to that extent it has been a blessing.

What’s the super power stutterers have to compensate? Usually when there’s a deficiency in one area other area step up and become stronger. Obviously it doesn’t have to be the case but I was hoping the article would mentions something about it.

I ask as a stutterer. :) I open my mouth and sometimes the words just don’t come out. I can relax and think about what I want to say and it gets better. Or I choose a different word.

My vocabulary is very wide and I can decide, on the fly, to change one word for another, and that only as a response to avoid stuttering in certain words. As a result I am quite eloquent, and for this reason my colleagues often ask me to be the one to give lectures, talks, and that means that my work is better known in my area (I'm not the best contributor).

It's strange that because of my stuttering I'm now the master of ceremonies.

I speak multiple languages, as I found out I didn't stutter as much in some languages as I do in others. Granted, that's not why I learned them but it's just one of the side effects that it made learning them more enjoyable. "Hey, look I don't stutter in French, how about that... Let's speak some French then!".

Also, know lots of synonyms, just to avoid saying the dreaded stuttering words that I feel are coming up I substitute them at the last minute. Sometimes it works better than other times. You probably know exactly how that is :-)

A thick skin perhaps from all the bullying I had received. At least I'd like to think so. But, I do believe I am a bit more resilient and persistent because of it.

All of the comments about stuttering not occurring while singing and speaking other languages reminds me of this recent discussion about developing an alter ego to combat anxiety and boost confidence: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24197395

This seems to help overcome a similar psychological barrier.

Had a severe stutter as a child. It wasn't until I started meditating about 4 years back, that my stutter no longer holds me back.

My experience here lines up with the experience cited by others on the thread.

To phrase what seems to have worked for me in a more systematic manner -

A. Micro level - deep breathing helps. At the end of a long day, when I am fatigued, my words get slower and harder to get out clean. I take a deep breath or a series of breaths and this usually helps.

B. Marco - meditation really has helped me deal with my own thoughts and insecurities ( which unfortunately stuttering tends to push more of), and find a core of Calm. The more I reconnect with that sense of calm, the more I feel like stuttering is within my control, and the more it helps.

Wouldn't wish it upon anyone - many days ended with me cursing and hating myself. Many days I would blame my father for it (easier to blame him, as a young boy) for not doing anything about it.

I would certainly hug every little kid I see with a stutter. Not just for what they are going through then, but to just let them know that "it will be OK".

Please do share your meditation techniques.

For me the most effective one has been following my breath. The principle there is that nothing can get more real than your breath right now. You are , only if you breathe. ( or atleast it resonates a ton with me ).

If thoughts come into my head I classify them into 2 - thoughts or feelings? Pleasant or unpleasant? and continue focussing on breathing. I do the above 15 mins everyday. This , for users of headspace, will probably be well known.

What kind of meditation do you do?

Replied above, I use headspace a lot.

Just a personal experience: I remember stuttering as a kid, I was able to figure out that I stutter when I can't remember a word fast enough to say it, long story short I was able to train my self to stay silent until I remember the word I am about to say. I think now it is not even noticeable.

I just noticed I am still doing this in the same way, a colleague just autocompleated my sentence. :)

I think a great consequence of speaking slowly is you are less likely to say things you regret.

Correct me if I'm wrong but don't most people who stutter not stutter when they sing? I always found that fascinating.

I think that even extends to rapping. Im not neuroscientist, but it seems the singing and musical expression must originate from different parts of the brain. I dont have a stutter, but social anxiety is something I struggle with. From hearing what a stutterer goes through they seem related. There is a stress about getting words out and for me its definitely related to sleep and stress level. If Im well rested I can be "on" for a while in a social situation, if not I just want to not speak...

A family story. My father-in-law (now in his 80s) began to stutter when he was very young, somewhere around 4 years old. Teachers, and I think his step-mother were trying to force him to write with his right hand, even though he naturally gravitated to using his left hand. At some point while still a child they gave up on trying to get him to write with his right hand and shortly thereafter the stuttering went away.

It might have been anxiety caused by the forced switch in handedness. But if so, why didn't stuttering reappear at other stressful times in life?

Or, is there a neurological connection. Writing and speaking both access language centers in the brain, so trying to force unnatural change in writing created problems in the oral expression of language?

I have a slight stutter if I don't pay attention and slow myself down. Feels like I'm trying to speak faster than I can articulate the words.

Interestingly that only happens in my natural language. I have been living in the US for 8 years and that hasn't been a problem when I speak English.

I think of a stutter as being akin to audio looping in a program where thread-starvation has prevented the buffer from being updated in time. That seems consistent with this article.

Would be interested if someone knowledgeable could comment on this analogy.

I'm not sure I recall audio loops of say, 0.5s coming from a computer bug.

More frequently, computer audio glitches take < 0.1s. They are 'pops' which a human wouldn't be able to imitate.

You can reproduce this glitch by playing with the latency setting in an audio program (like Ableton).

I am in my early 30s and I have had a stutter since childhood. It was pretty serious when I was younger, currently pretty manageable - many/most people I know don't know(or remember) that I stutter. As I get older it's become more of an internal battle. I am pretty good at hiding it.

If I am relaxed I can talk for long stretches without pauses. But occasionally I have to take a second or two before I can get a word out, this is especially disturbing during a dialogue with a person I don't know. It's even stranger when it happens in the middle of a sentence. I am sure I have left many people the impression that I don't know something extremely basic, or am mentally handicapped in some way. I usually make a thinking face and vocalize a "hmm..." if I feel a stutter coming up, it's better than staring the other person silently during my internal struggle.

I know a word is going to cause problems even before I try vocalizing it, my brain let's me know in advance, I can feel the word being broken...blocked...sharp. I often reorganize sentences to get around them. If I really need to use that specific word I may start talking about something else, while battling with the word in my head, usually I can insert it into an in-progress sentence, instead of starting a sentence with it.

I think I only stutter when the word begins with a strong letter, like k,t,p. I may also be subconsciously bending/smoothing the other letters without others/myself noticing, but getting a k,t,p - especially at the beginning of a sentence - out of my throat can be really challenging.

Collecting myself, changing my posture, looking elsewhere, coughing, etc. can ease the first vocals out. Slight coughs or throat clearings are especially good for masking the bent first letters. Too bad about coughing not being in vogue right now.

It will not happen during singing, only conversation, especially when I feel its a stressful situation - eg. even asking something trivial from the shop clerk. When I was younger there were many things I left un-bought because I couldn't vocalize them to the clerk. I don't remember myself ever stuttering on the phone - though I may misremember. Sometimes I don't remember when I last stuttered, though I might not register it as an event any more. It has not ruined any moments. I have probably organized my life to have less triggers to stutter.

Overall it's a pretty stupid thing and I would prefer not to have it.

EDIT: I only stutter in my native language, I don't stutter in the couple of other languages I know.

A good friend has pretty much the same profile you describe.

What has worked best for him is developing a habit of being very open about it, e.g. explicit stating to new people "I have a stutter". This would remove the tension around hiding something. In general hiding feelings tends to be bad for humans.

Indeed, if a person I know I will be talking to a lot notices I usually tell them. People don't care - in the good sense. It's usually talking to strangers that may cause issues. While as a child it was store clerks who I had an issue with, as an adult it's tense moments where you have to protect your interests, explain something complex to strangers, point the way to a tourist, etc. - stress-free vocalization would really help out in those situations

Oh the agony of not being able to say the next thing when everyone’s waiting for you to speak. Right in the middle of what was supposed to be a great point - in my mind, at least.

And yes it feels like the perception is going to be you’re thinking slowly or forgot what you were saying, but no, miles ahead in my brain here with a huge amount to say, busy processing it as I speak so I can get it across succinctly and appropriately for the audience - then ... blockage.

Thanks for sharing. You've described my own stutter and struggles perfectly.

Like you, I can tell I'm going to "block" on a word before I even say it. So it's less of what's thought of as a conventional stutter and more just a complete inability to say the word. It's a strange, almost scary, feeling to those who experience it. However, if I'm particularly excited about something, or don't care about the opinions of company I'm in, I occasionally "push through" the blocked word and it instead turns into a conventional drawn out stutter.

I also use similar coping methods, which as you note sometimes result in awkward situations. To give a hypothetical example, if I want to tell my coworker "I need to go home and let my dog out", I might notice as soon as I start talking that I'm going to block on "dog", so what results is something like "I need to go home and let my... [long pause as I try to think of a replacement word]... pet out." (Which of course leaves me feeling flustered, as I wonder what the my coworker thinks a dramatic pause before announcing I have a pet, and who says "pet" instead of "dog" anyway?)

This article was actually great, and does a good job of driving home that this is a physical disability relating to how our brains are wired, or our neurochemistry. Growing up in the 80s and seeing speech therapists about the issue, all the talk was around just "learning" not to stutter. Yes we can learn workarounds and coping methods, but at the end of the day it's still very much a biological issue, and it's obvious to those of us that experience it.

Reinforcing the idea that it's related to neurochemistry, I've noticed that any strong CNS stimulant (caffeine, etc) erases the stutter. And conversely, being in caffeine withdrawal (or just tired in general) amplifies it.

The good news is that I've found it's rarely interferes with my personal or professional life. It really only surfaces when I have my guard down 100% and I'm just engaging in casual conversation, while also tired or sleep deprived. When I put on my "work persona" for meetings, presentations, just general professional banter, it never surfaces. In those situations it's almost as if I'm talking through a manufactured persona, which would echo sentiments expressed elsewhere in this thread about the stutter disappearing when singing, speaking another language, etc.

On the other hand, I'm pretty confident the stutter is at the root of crippling social anxiety I experience in some situations.

Yeah, my go-to solution is just to replace the word with something else... usually something correct, but strange. Exactly like your dog-pet example. I am also drinking large amounts of coffee daily - maybe that's what's kept it at bay all along ;)

> I only stutter in my native language, I don't stutter in the couple of other languages I know.

Interesting. Are you slower when speaking these other languages?

I've had a stutter for as long as I can remember and have noticed a correlation between how nervous I am about speaking and how much I would stutter.

Eventually I just accepted that I will stutter at some point when talking and tried not to worry about it and my stuttering improved a lot. Like others have said here, I do believe anxiety and the fear of potentially stuttering will actually cause you to stutter more (at least in my case this was true).

One positive though is that I am very good at finding similar words to convey the same meaning when in mid-sentence if I feel a stutter is coming.

> One positive though is that I am very good at finding similar words to convey the same meaning when in mid-sentence if I feel a stutter is coming.

Like minds. Sometimes I switch words (if possible) like instead of saying "cranberry lemon tuna salad" (I struggle/stutter at 'cranberry'), I say "lemon cranberry tuna salad", and later correct myself :-). I know it might not be easy for the listener :-(

I still stutter once in a while, much worse as a kid, heres what helped me:

1) Public speaking, I finished up to the old ACS level at a local toastmasters

2) Subconsciously building a wordlist that I stutter more than others, and using synonyms that don't

3) Playfully smiling and saying "Bleh!" out loud if I do catch myself stuttering, and repeating what I was trying to say.

Finally: To the well intentioned non-stutterer telling us to relax and slow down, go fuck yourself

Hey man, hope you don't mind me asking, but what's the problem with telling someone who stutters to slow down?

Background: my son is diagnosed with TA, and he has a peculiar speech pattern, not sure if it's a kind of stutter. In my interpretation, he struggles to find the right word, and he goes back to correct the sentences he's speaking. The only advice that I can give him is to slow down and collect his thoughts, but the last thing I would like is to somehow make him feel bad.

It's like telling a person having a seizure, just relax man. Or a person with Tourette's syndrome: "try not to say that word man, it doesn't make sense". Normal people stutter when they're anxious or hyped up. But that doesn't mean that stutterers are always anxious or hyped up.

It's easier for people to arrive to a conclusion (possibly an invalid one) about a man's suffering, than actually admitting they don't know what the cause is and try to solve the problem interactively with that person. e.g. She has lupus, oh it must be because of her weird diet. etc.

In your case, the best thing you can do is listen. Try to ask them questions like: have you noticed any pattern that decreases the frequency of your stutter? how about you try this or that? You also have to be careful and try not to be pushy about it. As a stutterer myself, I came to a point where I just got used to the social awkwardness and starting to accept to generally accept my stutter. It's giving me way less anxiety than it used to do. So, I'd be a bit annoyed if someone whom I don't really know that well try to interactively solve this "problem" with me. Because it's only a problem if it's causing me discomfort.

Also, showing facial signs of petty or discomfort is the worst thing you can do. When you're listening to a stutterer, don't break eye contact, because it shows that you're uncomfortable being in their shoe. treat it as if it's someone saying "ahh" "emm" a lot, most people filter out these noises unconsciously, try to do that. I understand it's a lot to ask.

Imo, the absolute worst thing you can do, is to talk to them a lot about it while conveying that it's a "problem" that needs to be solved and always trying to find a cure. My dad used to be very pushy about it and it caused me some serious psychological harm, because I never felt that I'm good enough, and I'd argue that it caused me to stutter even more, because he always wanted me to be perfect. Instead of discussing their weakness, try to talk to them about how they can leverage their strengths to be the best version of themselves.

Hope that helps, feel free to message me if you have questions.

Thanks a lot. Yeah, makes sense that it should be frustrating having somebody who is not familiar with you nor a trained expert with your disorder giving all kinds of advices.

In my case, my son is 6, so even though I encourage him to tell me his thoughts, given his age most of the time is up to me to provide, or at least try to provide, a solution or in this case a coping strategy. I'll definitely do my best to not be pushy about it and avoid unnecessary stress. Thanks a lot for your comment, it certainly helps knowing other perspectives and see that things seem to be working on your end. Best wishes.

It doesn't seem that this was mentioned yet. World-renowned mycologist Paul Stamets had his stutter cured from magic mushrooms. Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAR4yH6TbtA

This is incredible, I definitely believe it's possible with psychedelics. I've stuttered all my life and have accepted it as part of my life, but I think I'm going to try it. Definitely not taking an ounce at one time though!

>People who stutter often appear to have slightly weaker connections between the brain areas responsible for hearing and for the movements that generate speech

Interesting. One would expect that from this it would follow that stutterers are bad singers.

It's kind of cliché, but I suspect many programmers fall in love with computers because of communication issues.

I'm don't stutter but was touched by Steve Harvey's message about his own experience with stuttering and how he worked through drills with an audience member who stuttered.

It's worth a watch.


All these comments and no one is calling these assholes out for pushing antipsychotic drugs? Are you mad?

I have a stutter too. What is interesting, is that I stutter less when speaking English than when I'm speaking Russian (my first language). I think party it has something to do with different rhythm structure of English.

I think you have just added a dimension to the graph instead of simply another data point! That sounds like a research grant and a paper to me.

I’ve had a stutter my whole life but, somehow, I don’t think it changed my quality of live. I guess that would be different if it were more severe.

Just reading your stories triggers some feeling in my tongue/mouth (I stutter from time to time)

My boss told me he had a stutter as a young boy. Went to a specialist, he said "stop watching Winnie the Pooh". No more stutter after that. I was shocked

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