Not every person who experiences stuttering is affected in the same way. However, stuttering is present across the lifespan, and can affect well-being at any stage of development.
Avoidance and holding back are key characteristics of stuttering, usually in older school-age children, adolescents, and adults. The extent to which persons avoid and hold back will differ across individuals.
To cover up or minimize their stutter, affected individuals may choose to give short or wrong answers, pretend not to know something or that they can’t think of the right word, change words, talk around words, or avoid talking altogether. They may ask another person to speak on their behalf. These tactics also serve to protect persons who stutter from the feelings of shame, embarrassment and frustration that ensue from stuttering. Generally, persons who stutter fear being judged negatively by others.
Uninformed listeners can form wrong impressions about persons who stutter based on their efforts to minimize or avoid stuttering. They may, for example, underestimate a person’s intelligence or ability, view the person as shy, aloof, unfriendly, or disinterested, and laugh when a wrong answer is given. Older children, adolescents and adults may be viewed as weak by some, making them easy targets for mocking and bullying.
Persons who stutter may hold back in their communication and steer away from opportunities that require them to speak more, to talk with more people, to use less preferred means of communication, such as the telephone, or to engage socially with other persons. Some develop social anxiety.
Restrained spontaneity wears on a person’s sense of self-efficacy and can be harmful to self-confidence and self-esteem.