Anxiety is one of the most widely observed and extensively studied psychological concomitants of stuttering. Research conducted prior to the turn of the century produced evidence of heightened anxiety in people who stutter, yet findings were inconsistent and ambiguous. Failure to detect a clear and systematic relationship between anxiety and stuttering was attributed to methodological flaws, including use of small sample sizes and unidimensional measures of anxiety. More recent research, however, has generated far less equivocal findings when using social anxiety questionnaires and psychiatric diagnostic assessments in larger samples of people who stutter. In particular, a growing body of research has demonstrated an alarmingly high rate of social anxiety disorder among adults who stutter. Social anxiety disorder is a prevalent and chronic anxiety disorder characterised by significant fear of humiliation, embarrassment, and negative evaluation in social or performance-based situations. In light of the debilitating nature of social anxiety disorder, and the impact of stuttering on quality of life and personal functioning, collaboration between speech pathologists and psychologists is required to develop and implement comprehensive assessment and treatment programmes for social anxiety among people who stutter. This comprehensive approach has the potential to improve quality of life and engagement in everyday activities for people who stutter. Determining the prevalence of social anxiety disorder among children and adolescents who stutter is a critical line of future research. Further studies are also required to confirm the efficacy of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy in treating social anxiety disorder in stuttering.
Educational objectives: The reader will be able to: (a) describe the nature and course of social anxiety disorder; (b) outline previous research regarding anxiety and stuttering, including features of social anxiety disorder; (c) summarise research findings regarding the diagnostic assessment of social anxiety disorder among people who stutter; (d) describe approaches for the assessment and treatment of social anxiety in stuttering, including the efficacy of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy; and (e) outline clinical implications and future directions associated with heightened social anxiety in stuttering.
Keywords: Anxiety; Cognitive Behaviour Therapy; Social anxiety disorder; Social phobia; Stuttering.
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