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Pediatric Social Phobia and Selective Mutism Follow-up

  • Author: Bettina E Bernstein, DO; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
Updated: May 15, 2014

Further Outpatient Care

See the list below:

  • Formal relaxation training can be helpful, and the use of concrete depictions (that relaxation is occurring) may facilitate the process; for example, the use of a biofeedback apparatus including a computer screen that changes color or graphically depicts an increase in the height of a bar graph when a relaxation response occurs (and is measured by objective measurements such as skin conductance, pulse, or blood pressure) may be helpful.
  • Weekly individual cognitive-behavioral therapy and/or group therapy sessions for at least 1 hour per week with appropriate parental involvement are recommended.
  • Support groups for parents of children with selective mutism can be tremendously helpful.[47]
  • Social skills problem-solving has shown promise.[44]
  • Yoga-enhanced cognitive behavioral therapy (Y-CBT) may be a promising new treatment for those with generalized anxiety disorder and possibly for other anxiety disorders such as social anxiety and selective mutism.[48]
  • Additional helpful items may include the following:
    • Supportive educational environment to guard against further additional anxiety or stressors, which worsen the patient's emotional state
    • Close collaboration among school (especially to include the school nurse as part of the team approach), home, and community persons working with the child and family (eg, athletic, music, art, religious personnel) and any therapy providers to reinforce and prevent loss of skills in other areas
    • Medication management (at least initially) by a child psychiatrist or pharmacologically knowledgeable behavioral-developmental pediatrician after appropriate screening, medical examination, and testing results are obtained (weekly or every other week visits until the patient is stabilized and monthly thereafter)
    • Group therapy (more appropriate for older children and adolescents to provide an in vivo experience but may benefit younger children if they are able to participate appropriately in a group)

Further Inpatient Care

See the list below:

  • Further inpatient care is generally unnecessary in patients with selective mutism.

Inpatient & Outpatient Medications

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  • Adjunctive treatment with a low-dose SSRI is indicated if no improvement is observed or if the person's level of functioning deteriorates to the point of not being able to maintain at least 50% level of functioning (ie, missing 50% of days of school or work) after nonresponse to 4-6 weeks of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
  • Avoiding medication with short-half life, such as paroxetine, is recommended to avoid adverse reactions that are more often associated with those medications, such as new onset suicidality, insomnia, and disinhibition.
  • Determining if the individual has a comorbid language or communication disorder is also helpful.[49]


See the list below:

  • Intensive intervention with children or adolescents at high risk for anxiety disorders (eg, those who have a parent with anxiety disorder especially agoraphobia) to prevent development of phobias after traumatic experiences (eg, anesthesia, dog bites, bullying) and encouragement of both the child and family to work through their emotional reactions to stressors soon after the stressor occurs may be needed.[50]


Interestingly, children and adolescents with social phobia are less likely to develop a panic attack in response to an infusion of sodium lactate or CO2 than persons with panic disorder.

  • Panic disorder with and without agoraphobia
  • Separation anxiety disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder


See the list below:

  • The prognosis of selective mutism is fair-to-good and depends on the severity of impairment of functioning associated with avoidance of social situations and public speaking and on the presence or absence of secondary gain factors that tend to discourage persons from changing their adaptation to anxiety.
  • Perhaps related to the higher incidence of associated speech and language disorders, children who have social phobia when they are younger than 10 years have a better long-term prognosis. Prognosis is poorer in children older than 12 years who have social phobia than in younger children. Long-term prognosis is perhaps related to the implications of having fewer overall communication skills in social settings or with peers for long-term social skills and language skills development. Also, the baseline problems that provoke the adolescent have the potential to be more long-standing and more serious.

Patient Education

See the list below:

  • Mild heart rate increases and subjective sensations of a lump in the throat or abdominal discomfort are physiological reactions to stress and are to be expected. These must be differentiated from disabling panic attacks in which simple reassurance does not help. Reactions can decrease as the child or adolescent learns to relax instead of tense up when stressful situations occur.
  • For excellent patient education resources, visit eMedicineHealth's Mental Health Center. Also, see eMedicineHealth's patient education articles Anxiety, Panic Attacks, and Hyperventilation.
Contributor Information and Disclosures

Bettina E Bernstein, DO Distinguished Fellow, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; Distinguished Fellow, American Psychiatric Association; Clinical Assistant Professor of Neurosciences and Psychiatry, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine; Clinical Affiliate Medical Staff, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; Consultant to theVillage, Private Practice; Consultant PMHCC/CBH at Family Court, Philadelphia

Bettina E Bernstein, DO is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Psychiatric Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Caroly Pataki, MD Health Sciences Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine

Caroly Pataki, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, New York Academy of Sciences, Physicians for Social Responsibility

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Caroly Pataki, MD Health Sciences Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine

Caroly Pataki, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, New York Academy of Sciences, Physicians for Social Responsibility

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Chet Johnson, MD Professor of Pediatrics, Associate Director and Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician, KU Center for Child Health and Development, Shiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies; Assistant Dean, Faculty Affairs and Development, University of Kansas School of Medicine

Chet Johnson, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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