Treatment of selective mutism: focus on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors

Pharmacotherapy. 2008 Feb;28(2):214-24. doi: 10.1592/phco.28.2.214.


Abstract Selective mutism is a pediatric psychiatric disorder that occurs when a child consistently fails to speak in specific situations in which speaking is expected, such as at school and social gatherings, but speaks appropriately in other settings. Selective mutism often is diagnosed when a child starts school and does not talk to teachers or peers, but talks to family members at home; the condition is frequently accompanied by anxiety and shyness. Although the underlying etiology of the condition remains unclear, psychotherapy is the preferred initial treatment, with the support of parents and teachers. If the child does not respond to psychotherapy, addition of pharmacologic treatment should be considered, depending on the severity of symptoms and presence of other illnesses. Although data are limited to case reports and trials with small patient populations and short follow-up periods, some patients with selective mutism respond to therapy with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Fluoxetine is the most studied SSRI as treatment for the condition, although further investigation is required to determine the optimal dosage and duration of therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Mutism / drug therapy*
  • Mutism / epidemiology
  • Mutism / psychology
  • Mutism / therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*


  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors