What Causes Stuttering In Adults
“When he was a boy growing up in New York City, actor and comedian Jerry Seinfeld would get so frustrated with his own stuttering that he’d try to “”cure”” himself by drinking from a glass at a time. He also wrote about it in his book “”Comedians Comedies,”” saying that when he first started doing standup comedy, he was so nervous that he couldn’t say anything without stuttering.
Stuttering is one of those embarrassing conditions we all probably have dealt with at some point in our lives, but are embarrassed to talk openly about. Most people don’t think they’re likely to do it themselves, which makes it seem like an isolated problem for children. But it’s not uncommon for adults to suffer from this speech disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, as many as 10 percent of U.S. adults — nearly 40 million Americans — may stutter at least once during their lifetime.
But what causes adult stuttering? Is there any way to know if you’ll ever struggle with the condition yourself? What exactly happens inside your mouth during a typical stutter? And why does it happen only in certain words?
The science of stuttering is still relatively young, says Dr. David McNeill, director of communications for the International Federation of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (the organization that represents more than 8,000 professionals). There are several theories on why stuttering occurs, including neurological, psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic ones. And while researchers continue to explore these areas, the bottom line is that there isn’t much evidence yet that suggests there’s a specific cause for stuttering in general.
There are, however, some common factors that contribute to stuttering among both children and adults. For example, childhood developmental disorders such as cerebral palsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often lead to speech problems because they affect how well the parts of the brain responsible for language work together. Other possible contributors include traumatic brain injury, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and HIV/AIDS. Brain tumors, strokes, infections, alcohol use and medications can also trigger stuttering.
In addition, social anxiety and shyness can make it harder to speak freely, especially in front of others. This kind of self-consciousness could also create a negative perception of oneself, leading to low self esteem. All of these factors combined can make stuttering worse.
As far as knowing whether you will experience stuttering yourself goes, there is no conclusive research proving that genetics plays a role in causing it. Some studies suggest that girls are more prone to developing fluency issues than boys. It seems that boys are more comfortable speaking out loud and are less influenced by outside forces, whereas girls tend to hold everything in until they explode in tears. However, experts caution against interpreting this data too closely.
Researchers believe that stuttering is similar to other speech defects like misarticulation and apraxia, where the muscles aren’t working properly. The difference is that people who stutter tend to repeat certain sounds over and over again, rather than stopping mid-sentence and waiting for the right word to come along. They also tend to pause longer before starting sentences, as opposed to finishing them. These pauses can become very long, sometimes lasting several seconds. People who stutter might sound strange when talking. Their voice tends to rise and fall irregularly, and they may slur words together. If you’ve ever said something like, “”I don’ t want to go today. I’m tired,”” chances are good that you were a bit of a stutterer back then!
So how did Jerry Seinfeld manage to cure his own stuttering? Read on to find out.
Jerry Seinfeld On His Own Comedy Cure
Seinfeld writer Maria Konnikova has spent her career studying the minds behind humor, particularly how comedians deal with mental obstacles through laughter. She believes that one reason why Seinfeld was able to overcome his stuttering is because he didn’t spend years trying to figure out why it happened or what to do about it. Instead, he simply embraced his frustration over being unable to communicate effectively, and turned it into comedy.
Instead of fighting his stuttering, Seinfeld decided to embrace it, creating characters that used it to comedic effect. One character, George Costanza, speaks in a halting fashion due to a severe lisp. Another, Elaine Benes, uses stutters as part of her sarcastic wit.
Konnikova writes in her book “”Thinking Fast & Slow”” that Seinfeld’s success came down to two main traits — flexibility and a willingness to experiment. Although he had tried therapy early in life, Seinfeld refused to stick with it. Instead, he relied heavily on trial and error.
He wasn’t afraid to take risks either. When writing, he experimented with different ways to structure jokes. He also took suggestions from his writers and editors. Seinfeld trusted his gut and believed in himself enough to play around with new ideas.
This willingness to fail helped him reach unprecedented levels of success. By allowing himself to make mistakes, he learned to laugh off failure and move on. As a result, he never felt discouraged or defeated, and always remained optimistic.
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