Speech Freeze

Kobuck

New Here
My ability to talk often stops when I'm triggered during a conversation, flashback or during therapy. I can't talk no matter how much I try to get the words out. Sometimes it's only for a few minutes and then I can loudly blurt out part of a word and then with great effort a few more blurts, until finally I can stutter a sentence or two. Sometimes when it happens in therapy or when having a conversation with someone it can take days for my speech and tone to return to normal. During the duration of these episodes, I experience hyperarousal and increased somatic symptoms (trembling and head jerking) especially if I'm around people. During flashbacks or panic episodes I physically freeze completely, but when I've calmed down and I can move again my speech returns to normal. I practice meditation, Tai Chi and all the positive self-talk psycho babble recommended, but it doesn't seem to help decrease the frequency of these episodes. I am participating in a somatic therapy and of my therapist has been trying to help me with this.

I'm wondering if others have experienced similar speech problems and have been successful in decreasing or eliminating this problem and if so how?
 

Survivor3

MyPTSD Pro
Hi @Kobuck, yes I've had speech and talking problems. Frequently throughout my life I've felt "mute" or just unable to talk properly. It's a sure sign of trauma and mental illness.
 

Chris-duck

MyPTSD Pro
Does it feel the same whether it lasts for a few mins or few days?

I ask because I get it a lot in acute things where it's like my brain goes blank and I can't figure out how to say or explain anything I'm trying to get across, but I imagine it's different if it's lasting for days on end.

Does it change depending on who you're speaking to or what you're speaking about in those days?
 

Friday

Moderator
I'm wondering if others have experienced similar speech problems and have been successful in decreasing or eliminating this problem and if so how?
Yes… but I don’t think in words, I think in pictures and translate into words when I talk/write.

The best way I’ve found around losing my ability to speak involves using that system to my advantage; hand signs, non-verbal communication, motion based anything but particularly interactive-motion-based things (dancing, sex, riding horses, dog training, playing/caring for young children & infants, ocean waves). Once I’m easy easy back to feeling balanced & communicating fine & on a meaningful level without words? The words come back.

Writing helps to some degree, but not as much as talking without words. I also lose my patience with writing, as it takes sooooooo many words to explain even the most basic thing.

I’ve wanted to learn ASL for yeeeeeeeears to see if that bypasses my Iron-Jaw-Friday thing, but classes around here are at a premium, it’s difficult for even parents of deaf children to get into ASL classes.
 

Kobuck

New Here
1) The longer it lasts the more frustrated and dysregulated I become, and I end up taking medication to calm my nervous system. When the medication wears off, I can talk, but my voice is flat and I stutter.
2) My body is immediately activated (jerking and trembling) when any trauma content comes up in therapy or medical appointments, but sometimes I freeze and sometimes I don't. I have gone 2 weeks without experiencing problems with my speech.
3) I don't have problems with trying to remember words, I know what I want to say, it's just my throat freezes and I can't even mouth the words when it happens.

Yes… but I don’t think in words, I think in pictures and translate into words when I talk/write.

The best way I’ve found around losing my ability to speak involves using that system to my advantage; hand signs, non-verbal communication, motion based anything but particularly interactive-motion-based things (dancing, sex, riding horses, dog training, playing/caring for young children & infants, ocean waves). Once I’m easy easy back to feeling balanced & communicating fine & on a meaningful level without words? The words come back.

Writing helps to some degree, but not as much as talking without words. I also lose my patience with writing, as it takes sooooooo many words to explain even the most basic thing.

I’ve wanted to learn ASL for yeeeeeeeears to see if that bypasses my Iron-Jaw-Friday thing, but classes around here are at a premium, it’s difficult for even parents of deaf children to get into ASL classes.
Thanks! That gave me a couple of ideas to try. I'm pretty active as I can't not care for my livestock. My dog sticks with me like glue so I always have him for comfort.
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
yes, i experience this. i started life with such a severe stutter that i was approaching adolescence before i could reliably hold a civil conversation. even now, all these decades later, my speech is not all that reliable. the harder i try, the worse it gets, so i often just fall mute when my speech is acting up. when the stutter fist presents, i can sometimes get past the random bumps by spitting and/or hitting something. one of my therapists theorated that it provides my brain with just enough of a jolt to jump the blocked neurons.

for what it's worth
i'm another who thinks with my senses and then translates the sensory input to words. the therapist mentioned above wondered if my speech defect was "mazing" more than stuttering. by whatever name, it's a pain in the royal hindside.
 

Wilma

Learning
My ability to talk often stops when I'm triggered during a conversation, flashback or during therapy. I can't talk no matter how much I try to get the words out. Sometimes it's only for a few minutes and then I can loudly blurt out part of a word and then with great effort a few more blurts, until finally I can stutter a sentence or two. Sometimes when it happens in therapy or when having a conversation with someone it can take days for my speech and tone to return to normal. During the duration of these episodes, I experience hyperarousal and increased somatic symptoms (trembling and head jerking) especially if I'm around people. During flashbacks or panic episodes I physically freeze completely, but when I've calmed down and I can move again my speech returns to normal. I practice meditation, Tai Chi and all the positive self-talk psycho babble recommended, but it doesn't seem to help decrease the frequency of these episodes. I am participating in a somatic therapy and of my therapist has been trying to help me with this.

I'm wondering if others have experienced similar speech problems and have been successful in decreasing or eliminating this problem and if so how?
Actually, not being able to speak could be dissociative in nature.
 

barefoot

Sponsor
Yes. It’s like my voice gets hijacked. An intense vocal freeze. It tends to happen when I get triggered. Or when I get emotionally overwhelmed/flooded. It happens a lot in therapy. Though, less now than earlier on.

A few years ago, at the start of therapy, it would often be part of a wider freeze - part of dissociation. So, I couldn’t speak. But also my head was pretty blank anyway and I’d feel spaced out. So there weren’t really clear words I wanted to express, so not being able to articulate them verbally wasn’t really a thing.

But sometimes I would get (and still do sometimes) the voice hijack when I was only slightly spicy or else not dissociative at all. And that feels very frustrating, anxiety-making and distressing. Because there are words (sometimes lots of them!) that I want to say. But I just cannot physically get them out. And the longer it goes on for, it feels like the deeper the vocal freeze sets in. Then, as you say, with some monumental effort, I can sometimes blurt out a word or two. But it’s a huge effort and completely exhausting to do so. And I have sat for maybe 10 or 20 mins thinking of the words before I can force one out. And later on after those sessions, my throat generally aches. Presumably because the surrounding muscles have been so tight and constricted.

In terms of what to do about it, I don’t have any great words of wisdom, I’m afraid, because it’s something I still struggle with. I wonder if it’s something about staying within our window of tolerance (I haven’t ever mastered that!) The only thing I do sometimes do is write stuff down, just so I can express it somehow. I used to take a mini whiteboard into sessions when we met face-to-face, though T had to often prompt me a lot to get it out and use it. Now we are having sessions virtually on video calls, I have sometimes texted her or put something in the online chat box.

Sometimes, that pause and actually managing to express something somehow gets me a bit unstuck and my voice slowly starts to come back. Other times not. But it’s still slightly less frustrating than not being able to express things at all.

Any other modes of expression work well for you? Writing? Drawing? Flow charts? Movement?

I really feel for you as this is something I find very difficult and it creates a lot of frustration and shame for me. I wish I had the answer.
 

Livi

New Here
This happens to me and is a sign I am triggered or becoming triggered. I often can't say the names of things or people and end up pointing and waggling my hands about in frustration. My brain knows what I am trying to say - it is all there and ready to be said, but there is some kind of disconnect. I think the words, know what the words mean and have the word order but I am mute. My mouth is open - but nothing! I usually tend to do some odd sort of hand actions and some kind person (usually one of my kids) will jump in and get me over the hurdle. I have assumed it is a dissociative 'thing' in as much as I feel both mentally disconnected and a massive disconnection between brain and voice. As I type this I realise it often happens to me in therapy too, when I want to explain something but the words get stuck. I can go for weeks in therapy not saying the thing that I want to say because it gets stuck in my head and I can't get it out. This is such an interesting thread for me to read - good to know it's not just me
 

Freddyt

MyPTSD Pro
Any of these look familiar:
- Easily embarrassed
- Get very angry or have an emotional outburst when you feel like someone has hurt or rejected you.
-Set high standards for yourself you often can't meet
- Feel anxious, especially in social settings
- Stay away from social situations and withdraw from other people
- Feel like a failure because you haven't lived up to other people's expectations.

The root cause is Executive Dysfunction. The problem is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. It's yet another way reality gets twisted by PTSD.

The biggest single thing you can do to fix it is reduce stress. Learn to reduce the stress in those situations. Grounding is another good way of reducing stress.

One thing that helped me was realizing that PTSD is same as my blindness in my right eye, it isn't obvious to people, in fact its now hidden now by a prosthetic. I never realized before that how peoples natural reaction of staying away from people who may be sick or diseased helped me with my then hidden PTSD.

Before:
parkway 1.JPG

After:
IMG_20180921_190746.jpg


That led to some big realizations:

1. People can't see my mental issues except when I become uncommunicative and quiet. With the exception of my wife, nobody I know understands much of whats going on in my head or the challenges I face day to day,

2. I am terrible at communicating my issues to people. I want to hide my challenges from others. Then when I get in trouble I can't tell others whats going on.

3. PTSD lies to me. It twists my input to suit its purposes. It changes helpful to condescending. It turns ambiguous to an attack on me. It changes when people dumb things down because they think I don't understand into people thinking I'm an idiot. My PTSD wants dysphoria and anger to feed itself, and the more it gets fed the stronger the monster gets.

That's where I'm focusing on getting better. Telling people where I have challenges is very difficult. When people know why they react very differently and it's much easier to take a minute to reduce stress and do some grounding. They begin to understand the one thing that frustrates me most, getting whats inside my head out. Better yet it removes my expectation of being like everyone else. Because I'm not. I live with PTSD.
 

Kobuck

New Here
Yes. It’s like my voice gets hijacked. An intense vocal freeze. It tends to happen when I get triggered. Or when I get emotionally overwhelmed/flooded. It happens a lot in therapy. Though, less now than earlier on.

A few years ago, at the start of therapy, it would often be part of a wider freeze - part of dissociation. So, I couldn’t speak. But also my head was pretty blank anyway and I’d feel spaced out. So there weren’t really clear words I wanted to express, so not being able to articulate them verbally wasn’t really a thing.

But sometimes I would get (and still do sometimes) the voice hijack when I was only slightly spicy or else not dissociative at all. And that feels very frustrating, anxiety-making and distressing. Because there are words (sometimes lots of them!) that I want to say. But I just cannot physically get them out. And the longer it goes on for, it feels like the deeper the vocal freeze sets in. Then, as you say, with some monumental effort, I can sometimes blurt out a word or two. But it’s a huge effort and completely exhausting to do so. And I have sat for maybe 10 or 20 mins thinking of the words before I can force one out. And later on after those sessions, my throat generally aches. Presumably because the surrounding muscles have been so tight and constricted.

In terms of what to do about it, I don’t have any great words of wisdom, I’m afraid, because it’s something I still struggle with. I wonder if it’s something about staying within our window of tolerance (I haven’t ever mastered that!) The only thing I do sometimes do is write stuff down, just so I can express it somehow. I used to take a mini whiteboard into sessions when we met face-to-face, though T had to often prompt me a lot to get it out and use it. Now we are having sessions virtually on video calls, I have sometimes texted her or put something in the online chat box.

Sometimes, that pause and actually managing to express something somehow gets me a bit unstuck and my voice slowly starts to come back. Other times not. But it’s still slightly less frustrating than not being able to express things at all.

Any other modes of expression work well for you? Writing? Drawing? Flow charts? Movement?

I really feel for you as this is something I find very difficult and it creates a lot of frustration and shame for me. I wish I had the answer.
I am so grateful for your post and to know that I am not alone with this issue. I'm sorry that you have to go thru this, but it meant so much to me to read your words and know that there was another person experiencing the same thing. Thank you!
 
If it helps, I found it of value to review what would be understood as an elaboration on the fight or flight response as articulated by Pete Walker. Something added to the mix is neither fight or flight, but rather 'fawn'; i.e. to freeze in place hoping if you will for the threat to dissipate.

Over the weekend that was a similar experience was had by myself when a host at a gathering related something that triggered me and just kept further elaborating upon how right, how correct she was in the particular instance - and all I could do was vanish into space given leaving the scene wasn't strictly an option. I'm not especially good with aggressive dogs when walking alone from place to place, typically feeling miserable for rating as the threat of the moment if such is encountered, whereas it was the speaker's conviction that her Yorkie (Yorkshire Terrier we'd presume) rated higher than any mere human and ought to be allowed anywhere and everywhere - sensitive humans with histories notwithstanding!

Anyhow, perhaps consider reviewing the material accessible via the link - nothing terribly long mind you, but illuminating back in the day when I'd stumbled across such. I read it and felt that oh - this fills in something and has merit. Be well...


R.
 
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