My story of stammering & social anxiety

Two pictures of the author, Farissi Youssef; one in casual clothes and one in his doctor's uniform

15th January 2021

Growing up, Farissi Youssef found that stammering and social anxiety formed an 'endless cycle'. Here he explains how his job as a doctor, and through meeting others, really helped him.

My name is Farissi, I'm from Morocco and I have been stammering ever since I can remember. 

My time at school was not easy. With my stammer I found it impossible to participate in class, even though I knew every answer that the teacher asked. That made me feel sad and angry at the same time.

When I stammer, I get anxious. And when I get anxious, I stammer even more, and so on.

And as I advanced in age I discovered that I also had social anxiety, which made me stammer even more. Each one activates the other, it's like an endless cycle for me; when I stammer, I get anxious. And when I get anxious, I stammer even more, and so on.

I stayed like that throughout high school, sitting in the corner knowing all the answers and just watching, never participating. I also never participated in friends' conversations in fear that I might stammer. I was known as a good listener, but the truth was I just avoided talking because I knew what would happen if I spoke.

A selfie of the author, Farissi Youssef

Talking more through work

I never saw a therapist or anyone, I just kind of adapted to life. Little by little my stammering decreased and my social anxiety got better however, and I think that was due to my job.

I work now as a doctor. I'm a pulmonologist, which means I specialise in the respiratory system; it's the kind of job that puts you in frequent contact with people. I am obliged to talk to strangers every day and that made me face my fears of stammering.

Something that really helps me feel better is when I find another person who stammers. When I do it's like I've found a friend; it makes me feel like I'm not alone, that it's okay to stammer. 

I rarely stammer now around my patients, but when I do I quickly change the subject or start talking too fast as a reaction to the stutter. Not many patients notice it. I met one patient who also struggled with his speech; I knew right there and then on his first words that he stammered too. I told him we kind of had the same thing — we both recognised each other and had a very nice judgement-free conversation about it.

It made me realise that something that really helps me feel better is when I find another person who stammers. When I do it's like I've found a friend; it makes me feel like I'm not alone, that it's okay to stammer. 

And so, I still stammer from time to time but it's much, much less than it was in my childhood. My confidence has improved by talking more.

Find out how you can meet other people who stammer at our Connect section, which has a list of local and groups.

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