Most stammering develops during childhood and is a neurological, rather than a psychological, condition. Subtle changes within the brain result in a physical difficulty in talking. Stammering isn’t caused by anxiety or stress, although people may stammer more when stressed or anxious.
It is often a hereditary condition – about 60% of people who stammer have another family member who stammers. Most adults who stammer, around 75%, are male. When it begins in childhood, this is known as developmental stammering.
Around 8% of children, boys and girls, will go through a short period of stammering between the ages of two and five. Short means months rather than years. The stammer may come and go during childhood, but if it continues into adulthood, then it's likely to be a lifelong condition. Up to 3% of adults in the UK say that they stammer.
A far rarer form of stammering, known as 'acquired stammering', usually occurs later in life. The main causes are a head injury, a stroke or a condition such as Parkinson’s disease. Other causes can be extreme emotional distress, medication or drugs.
Most children who start stammering in early childhood will stop stammering either spontaneously or through speech therapy.
For adults, the picture is different. We don’t know enough about stammering, but we do know that if someone stammers into adulthood they are likely to continue to stammer for the rest of their lives, although the degree may vary widely. There is no ‘cure’, no pill or therapy which will make stammering go away. There are therapies and interventions which can help people manage their stammer and learn to speak more easily. This is often not a permanent fix and the struggle will still be there.
There are instances where the stammer can stop almost completely and that's it, or it may start again years later. Speech techniques to manage it may work for a period of time, but managing one's stammer and talking fluently can be hard work. It takes time and commitment.
You may be entirely comfortable stammering. We believe absolutely in your right to stammer. Or you may want to find ways to speak more easily and fluently. If so, we've set out the main therapies and interventions here. Other approaches, such as mindfulness, cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and yoga, can also prove useful. The important thing is to find out what works for you now. And if you’re OK with the way you speak, you don’t need to do anything at all.