Monday, January 25, 2010

Extreme blushing and stuttering

A reader, Diogo from Portugal, makes me aware of similarities between extreme blushing and stuttering:

I don't know if you're aware of a medical condition called Idiopathic Craniofacial Erythema, it is the technical name for a extreme condition of blushing. I don't know if anybody made the connection  between stuttering and ICE (I searched the web but didn't find anything) but it seems to me that both share some common traits. If you dont know anything about this I advise to read the wikipedia entry ( and most of all this New Yorker article called "Crimson Tide" ( The article is about someone with Idiopathic Craniofacial Erythema and many things that this person feels about her condition are very, very similar to stuttering. Also how her doctors deal with her problem is very similar how different doctors try to treat a stuttering condition.

Idiopathic Craniofacial Erythema has a treatment and this treatment is an operation that shuts down the blushing mechanism. Unfortunate the same can't be done for stuttering, the equivalent would be to shut down the talking mechanism (then you wouldn't stutter but you wouldn't talk either). We can live without blushing but living without talking it is very difficult.

It seems to me that both conditions are some kind of a rare hypersensitivity to stress. We all blush and we all stutter. But in some of us the blushing mechanism and speaking mechanism are much more sensible to stress variations leading to ICE and stuttering. I would say it is a biological flaw that it is later emphasized by psychological and social conditions.  

Nevertheless I think that a correlation can be made between these two conditions (perhaps there might be other similar conditions) and by studying them together perhaps some new conclusions can be made about how do they appear, how they work and how can they be corrected (if they can).


Peter Louw said...

Hi Tom

Once again a very interesting topic. I, too, am fascinated by conditions that are caused or aggravated by stress. Another one is psoriasis, the skin disease that causes rough red areas where the skin comes off in small pieces. Epilepsy, too, is in some ways related to stress.

Maybe we should create a list of stress-related disorders?

Personally I feel that this is the way to go in research. In fact the whole issue of stress is not sufficiently understood by most people who stutter, even though Hans Selye's work on stress has been available for decades. I have always maintained that you can't understand stuttering if you don't understand stress.

Jim Baker said...

I'd be interested in the list of stress related disorders, and any correlation info. I've suffered from extreme erythema for a large part of my life, and still struggle with public speaking.