Keeping it Under Wraps - Selective Mutism in the Time of Covid-19
Updated: Apr 15
For some time since the outbreak of the pandemic, I have become increasingly aware that being born into the world of masks - where facial and vocal expression are both equally distorted - must leave a stain on the developing child as they reach their usually-occurring milestones.
More latterly, it has been brought to my attention that this phenomenon is certainly making an impact in the form of delayed speech development and regression in those who had already displayed symptoms of selective mutism. Its very description indicates the subject often chatters away at home and in familiar surroundings (reminding one very much of the very distinctive remedy - Baryta Carbonicum).
This condition has somehow been kept to a low profile, I have found, both in the medical press and media at large. However, nowadays it is being recognised as a growing manifestation in children reacting to a world which seems so out of their reach in a myriad of ways. This reaction was confirmed according to my enquiries among fellow homeopaths, teachers and speech therapists alike. It seems I am not the only person acknowledging this as just one of the fallouts as a result of the pandemic. I have also concluded that this definitely comes under the scope of ‘states on the spectrum’, with its basis in anxiety. It has been observed that often a parent or sibling manifests other related states or selective mutism itself. This, I consider, is so much based in the individual’s (or collective’s) early-life trauma or ancestral trauma in the family line of inheritance. (1)
Medorrhinum in its capacity as a nosode, is the remedy which comes to mind especially for different members of the same family manifesting different aspects of states on the spectrum, e.g. addiction in one generation, ADHD in another and selective mutism in the third. Medorrhinum only appears under the more generic rubrics in the Mind section appertaining to the latter. However, it is expressed in the general theme of the remedy picture.
Mina Kiskela et al, in their article looking at the impact of parental psychopathology and sociodemographic factors, mention that if both parents had any psychiatric disorder, this almost tripled their odds of having a child with selective mutism, especially among the mothers. Fathers over 35 years of age were significantly more likely to have children with selective mutism. Offspring of a single mother had a 2-fold increased chance than where the child lived with both parents. They report that there is an association with a controlling parenting style and domestic conflict creating a risk factor. (2)
It is inevitable that often the parents are subdued due to the prevailing news and do not address their offspring in the usual way seen in this expected developing dynamic. It is often the case the parent will relate ‘going through the motions’, having undergone a pregnancy at a time when the future appears so uncertain and threatening at the same time. The child may have been unwanted. Post-natal depression is almost a given due to the extraordinary circumstances in which the mother has had to incubate her child. After all, it is easy to observe how the spontaneity of the emotion of joy has been drained from society as a whole in what is often termed ‘these unprecedented times’. In Magnesium Carbonica, one sees ‘aphasia’ as an expression of their basic feeling. There may well be financial insecurity lurking in the background for the parents with the upsurge in loss of jobs over the past year or so. Psorinum applies here with the degree of gloom this could generate.
The optimum approach would be to treat the parents with constitutional homeopathic treatment before conception. In this way, the miasmatic layer in the developing embryo would be placed into balance, enabling them to withstand the extraneous pressures which come to bear on them as they enter the uncharted territory of a tentative world which awaits them.
Some rubrics which stood out for me in the Mind section of the Repertory (3) were:-
‘Slow, learning to talk’ - Agaricus, Baryta Carbonicum, and Natrum Muriaticum being the 3 black type remedies which appear there.
‘Taciturn, mutism’ - Helleborus and Veratrum Album are the only two remedies appearing in the rubric.
In the Children section, this rubric stands out:- ‘Mutism, childhood, of’ - Agraphis Nutans and Lycopodium as the only two remedies appearing in the rubric. In Agraphis Nutans, the trigger is often the amount of mucus contained in the nasal and throat cavity. Once this is cleared through the remedy, the speech flows more easily - a symptom based on a physical trigger here.
‘Timid, in school, children’ - Lycopodium (in italics) and Carcinosin, Natrum Muriaticum, Phosphorus, Pulsatilla, Silica, and Thuja - all in plain type.
In the Speech section, I discovered:
‘Childish, speech’ - this contains five remedies - Aconite, Lycopodium (in plain type), Argentum Nitricum, Pulsatilla (in italics), Baryta Carbonicum (in black type).
‘Slow, speech, learning how to talk and walk’ - Agaricus Muscarius, (in italics and single remedy).
‘Stammering, vexation, from’, Causticum, (in italics and single remedy).
Altogether, through my research, I discovered ten remedies which come to the fore for selective mutism. Overall, they reflect in their mental pictures a deep level of emotional disturbance which is mirrored in the presenting symptoms of the child suffering this state. They include: Agraphis Nutans, Agaricus Muscarius, Baryta Carbonicum, Causticum, Helleborus, Lycopodium, Magnesium Carbonicum, Medorrhinum, Natrum Muriaticum, Psorinum, Veratrum Album.
It could well be that the remedy needed in the child reflects back to the mother’s state in or immediately after the pregnancy, e.g. Natrum Muriaticum where the sufferer is emotionally shut down and closed-off from grief. In Psorinum, the mother could well have felt both impoverished and isolated at the same time. The Veratrum Album scenario may well have left the mother despairing of her social position and feeling very disadvantaged since the outbreak of the pandemic. This may well have involved a religious crisis as everything started to crumble around her. In surveying the full group of remedies, it becomes evident with the level of despair in their background, that in selective mutism we see the tip of the iceberg of the epigenetic effect of the pandemic as it starts to infiltrate future generations directly from their very inception.
As homeopaths, it calls on us to look at the deeper picture and in so doing, not only will the patient respond, but also their affected family members as the vicarious effect of the treatment filters through. After all, the very brain structures afflicted by such deepening despair as induced by the pandemic can re-align in this way. It would have been impossible only a few years ago to believe that significant changes occur in the brain long after early childhood. Integration can take place not only on all levels of the child, but also on their family members on whom they depend for their survival. By determining the trauma inheritance, we gain a better understanding of the potential effect on the brain structures in each case. (4)
Adalian, Elizabeth, 2017, Touching Base with Trauma: Reaching Across The Generations - a Three-Dimensional Homeopathic Perspective, Writersworld.
Koskela, Mina, et al, 2020, The Impact of Parental Psychopathology and Sociodemographic Factors in Selective Mutism - a Nationwide Population-Based Study, bmcpsychiatry 20, Article no. 21.
Murphy, Robin, N.D., 2005, Homeopathic Clinical Repertory, Third Edition, Lotus Health Institute.
Adalian, Elizabeth, Winter 2010, Sculpting the ‘Software’ - Targeting Specific Brain Structures, Homeopathy in Practice.
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