Saturday, July 31, 2010
Does sexual activity affect stuttering?
This issue is frequently raised in stuttering forums, generating a lot of uneducated comments, reflecting a lot of anxiety, and underlining the fact that so many people who stutter still have very little knowledge of stress and how it impacts on their life and fluency. Stress remains the elephant in the stuttering room, probably in part because it's more fashionable in speech therapy circles to focus on brain scanning research.
The posts in discussions on sex and stuttering reflect various responses to sex, with some saying that sex negatively impacts on their fluency, particularly after masturbating. Others say that sex improves their speech, and yet others feel that it has no effect on their stuttering.
Even for those who have a superficial knowledge of stress, the answer is simple. Sex, like stress and stuttering, has a psychological as well as physical side; and sex CAN (but may not necessarily) increase, or decrease, stress and anxiety levels depending on the circumstances. Sex which is accompanied by guilt feelings (which are in many cases part and parcel of masturbation) can aggravate anxiety and stress levels; and we all know that stress (in any of its many forms) is an important component in stuttering, with more stress generally resulting in more stuttering.
Conversely, sex often acts as a release from sexual and other forms of tension, so lowering stress levels and also reducing stuttering. In many cases it does not have an effect on stress at all.
There really is not much more to it than that. There is not much mystery in the issue of whether sex causes more or less stuttering, if stress is properly understood. A much more interesting question is why people find it so difficult to understand stress. Is it because stress lies in the grey area between psychology and physiology? Are we not yet comfortable with holistic thinking?
IMPORTANT UPDATE: I have been made aware that the increase in stuttering after sex could also be due to the increase in the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. It is known that sexual arousal results in increased dopamine; and some researchers believe that stuttering is caused by an excess of dopamine in the brain. If this is correct, it makes sense that the large amounts of sex-induced dopamine increases stuttering after sex.
Results of my 2013 poll
The results indicate that, for a large majority, sex leads to more stuttering. The question was: "Does sex affect your fluency?" and the results were as follows:
Total of votes: 54
"Has no effect on my speech at all" - 6 votes
"After sex I'm much more fluent" - 7 votes
"Sex makes my stuttering worse" - 41 votes