“Debbie” is a 24 year old athletic blond with hundreds of young men pursuing her on a dating site. She is currently getting her Masters in Special Education. Her mother initiated treatment after Debbie experienced a stress breakdown at the beginning of graduate school. Because of the anxiety episode Debbie withdrew from school for a semester. While Debbie had always struggled with performance anxiety and an auditory processing deficit, no one pinpointed the selective mutism until mother and daughter were watching “The Bing Bang Theory” on television and identified with Raj, who had selective mutism.
In treatment Debbie was making progress with her social anxiety. She resumed her education and was functioning well at school. She was expressing herself well in classes. She started to reconnect with friends she had been avoiding for a long time. She controlled her relationship with alcohol, which had been characterized by binge drinking to get her through social situations. She started to date. This was especially important as she had been in a co-dependent relationship for a number of years.
Recently she shared a story. She got into a young man’s car after a first date. At one point this young man became too physically aggressive forcing Debbie to leave the car. In session I asked her how long she had been “talking” to this person via telephone. She responded; “a couple of weeks”. I asked “when you were talking with him did you get any read on chemistry”? At that point she explained that talking over the phone meant texting.
This is an insidious example of how avoidance of speaking on the phone, which was a symptom of her selective mutism, lead to over-dependence on texting. This resulted in no opportunity for a read on social chemistry, and a potential problem that luckily was averted.