Two stuttering adults

Stuttering in Adults: The Most Common Causes

While childhood stuttering has been recognized as a neurological issue rather than the result of psychological difficulties, adult-onset stuttering is a very different matter. Adult-onset stuttering may even be the result of a return of childhood stuttering, but the most causes of adult onset stuttering are often quite different.

External Factors

In most cases, adult-onset stuttering is the result of brain trauma. There are, of course, other reasons, but for the most part, neurogenic reasons are the most common.

For example, some prescription (or nonprescription) medications, like stimulants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, can have cognitive effects severe enough to alter speech pattern. If you suspect this is the reason for adult-onset stuttering, it’s important to speak to your doctor about an alternative right away.

Additionally, severe emotional trauma can sometimes cause “psychogenic stuttering.” In most instances, however, the stutter goes away with the disappearance of the stressful or traumatic events. 

Neurogenic Factors

Stroke and Brain Trauma

A stroke is effectively a heart attack, but to the brain. Blood flow to the brain is disrupted, sometimes by a mobile blood clot, called an embolism, which also cuts off the brain’s supply of oxygen. While this blood-oxygen supply is cut off, parts of the brain are dying or being damaged.

In some instances, this damage occurs to one of the parts of the brain associated with language, resulting in neurogenic, adult-onset stuttering. Strokes are the most common cause of adult-onset stuttering. Similarly, other forms of brain trauma may also lead to stuttering in a similar manner—injury from a car accident, contact sport, or other potential sources of brain trauma may affect the speech-associated parts of the brain. 

Brain Tumors and Neurological Disorders

Adult-onset stuttering can also be indicative of a brain tumor. The formation of a tumor can interfere with a person’s ability to choose words and form sentences quickly, which may be evidenced by stuttering or slurring words.

Neurological disorders that don’t typically emerge until late adulthood can also be a cause of adult-onset stuttering. While the potential for recovery with speech therapy and hard work is there in most issues, in the case of neurological disorders, it may never go away.

Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, even Alzheimer’s disease can all be causes of stuttering in adults. Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder; difficulties producing normal speech can be among the other symptoms that occur in a large percentage of patients. Signs of multiple sclerosis (MS) occur because the nerves become damaged and can no longer appropriately define the central nervous system’s signals. Eventually, cognitive processes may be impaired, including verbal function. 

Last Updated: June 17, 2016