Stuttering signs and symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty starting a word, sentence or phrase
  • Prolonging a word or sounds within a word
  • Repetition of a sound, syllable or word
  • Brief silence for certain syllables or pauses within a word (broken word)
  • Addition of extra words such as "um" if difficulty moving to the next word is anticipated
  • Excess tension, tightness or movement of the face or upper body to produce a word
  • Anxiety about talking
  • Limited ability to effectively communicate

The speech difficulties of stuttering may be accompanied by:

  • Rapid eye blinks
  • Tremors of the lips or jaw
  • Facial tics
  • Head jerks
  • Clenching fists

Stuttering may be worse when you're excited, tired or under stress, or when you feel self-conscious, hurried or pressured. Situations such as speaking in front of a group or talking on the phone can be particularly difficult for people who stutter.

However, most people who stutter can speak without stuttering when they talk to themselves and when they sing or speak in unison with someone else.

When to see a doctor or speech-language pathologist

It's common for children between the ages of 2 and 5 to go through periods when they may stutter. For most children, this is part of learning to speak, and it gets better on its own. However, stuttering that persists may require treatment to get better.

Call your doctor for a referral or contact a speech-language pathologist directly for an appointment if stuttering:

  • Lasts more than six months
  • Occurs with other speech or language problems
  • Becomes more frequent or continues as the child grows older
  • Occurs with muscle tightening or visible struggling to speak
  • Affects the ability to effectively communicate at school, work or in social interactions
  • Causes anxiety or emotional problems, such as fear or avoidance of situations where speaking is required
  • Begins as an adult
Aug. 20, 2014

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