Stammers Starting In Adulthood

Find out why stammering can start in adults and learn how to support yourself if you experience it.

It's most common for stammering, also known as stuttering, to start in early childhood. (See What Is Stammering?) But it can sometimes start in adults too. This is sometimes called 'acquired stammering' or 'adult onset stammering'.

If this happens, it can be a shock to go from speaking fluently to not feeling in control of your speech. Everyday things like making phone calls and ordering coffees can become harder. So too can speaking to family members, friends and colleagues. You might feel a loss of identity as you grapple with your new pattern of speech. Or it might not be a big issue for you. For some it is just something to adapt to.

On this page: 
Reasons stammering can start in adulthood
Getting help
Other things you can do


Here are the main reasons why stammering starts in adulthood. Find out how to get help and support yourself below this list.

1. A returning stammer

For some people, stammering starts in early childhood, disappears and starts again later. It's not always easy to know why for several reasons. Firstly, you may have gone through a period of stammering when you were very young but don't remember it.  

Secondly, stammering can sometimes be almost completely covert or hidden. From an early age, a lot of people cope by avoiding words they may stammer on so that it's less noticeable. Or they might avoid certain speaking situations. Some might go to great lengths so that no one finds out they stammer. This is sometimes called 'covert' stammering. See Covert Stammering for more information. These habits can become so ingrained that over time you stop seeing yourself as someone who stammers. But these ways of coping can sometimes break down without warning. As a result, you might notice yourself stammering again.

2. Medication and drug side-effects 

Stammering can sometimes start as a side effect of taking medication or other drugs.

Are you taking a prescribed medicine and experiencing any changes in your speech? If so, and if you're worried, consult your doctor immediately. They may be able to prescribe a different medicine or adjust the dosage to reduce the side effects. 

Drug-related stammering will almost certainly disappear completely if you stop using the drug. However, it can be dangerous to stop taking medication. This can be because of the way the body reacts to withdrawal of medication. Or it could be because of the loss of the associated health benefits. Seek medical advice before considering any changes to your medication.

3. Changes in the way the brain works

Sometimes, changes in the way the brain is working can lead to stammering. This can happen even if there are no physical changes to the brain. This is sometimes called 'functional stammering' or 'functional neurological stammering'. 

It is sometimes associated with a traumatic event. Or it can be caused by prolonged stress over time. But quite often, there is no obvious cause for the change in the way the brain is working. Stress-related stammering is likely to reduce when events or situations become less stressful.

4. Changes in the physical structure of the brain

Sometimes stammering can start after having:

  • a stroke
  • a head injury
  • a brain tumour
  • Parkinson's disease
  • some forms of dementia.

This is sometimes called 'neurological stammering' or 'neurogenic stammering'.

5. Individual causes of stammering

Sometimes it may not be possible to find out what has caused a stammer that starts in adulthood. It might relate purely to the person concerned and does not fall into any of the above categories. This is sometimes called 'idiopathic stammering'.


If you have recently started stammering and don't know why, speak to your GP. It's important that they can rule out any of the serious medical conditions listed under number 4 above. A GP might refer you to a specialist consultant and can help you seek support from a speech & language therapist.

If stammering starts after a traumatic event or prolonged stress:

The NHS provides a range of psychological therapies you could try. Contact your GP for details. If you live in England, you can refer yourself to a talking therapies service without seeing your GP. See the NHS website for more details. Alternatively you can look into NHS counselling services. Some speech & language therapists also have advanced counselling skills. See Options For Adults Who Stammer for details of NHS or private speech & language therapy services.

If you're not comfortable with stammering:

You might be looking for help to communicate with confidence or tackle your concerns. If so, speech & language therapy or stammering courses can help. See Options For Adults Who Stammer.


Chat with us

If you have started stammering as an adult and would like to talk about it, chat with us. Call our free helpline on 0808 802 0002. Or you can start a webchat or email 

Supporting yourself

Our Help For Speaking Situations page gives tips for everyday things like using the phone. Help For Your Stammer has things you can do to support yourself and build confidence with stammering.

Meet others and share experiences

Join the online Adults New To Stammering Group. It's a chance to speak with others who have experienced the same thing. Or see if there's a stammering group near you where you can meet other people who stammer.

Get reasonable adjustments

You can ask your employer to make 'reasonable adjustments' to make your job easier. See Stammering At Work and the Downloads section on this page.

Read others' experiences

Read these articles from adults who have started stammering:

If you'd like to write about your experiences, email

If you know someone who has started stammering

Are you looking at this information because you know someone who stammers or has started stammering? See these pages for guidance:

•    In Conversation With Someone who Stammers  
•    For Partners, Family and Friends