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Self talk

Question

I have a 13-year-old son and I observe that he has been mumbling to himself very often lately. Whenever it happens, I will try to ask him what he is mumbling about. But I never get an answer. He would either ask me not to disturb him or he would just stop the mumbling all together and ignore me. Is this a mental condition? Is there a clinical explanation to this? Some of my friends advised me to see a ‘bomoh’. But I am afraid of the consequences. Please advise.

Answer

Adolescence is an interesting period of development. It is actually a transition from childhood to adulthood. Adolescence has many challenges; including discovering self-identity, developing appropriate peer relations and separating from the family. Adolescents like to be treated as adults and this should be the premise that parents should start with. Self-talk is a way in which an individual helps to clarify their thinking and make decisions. Many adolescents prefer their privacy and would rather that adults do not interfere with their thoughts. So if a parent were to ask, the adolescent might just shut up. Self-talk is not a problem in itself, but it becomes an issue if the adolescent is responding to voices speaking to him. Usually if the adolescent is mumbling to himself as a result of externalised voices (called hallucinations), there are also other signs of problems. These can include deterioration in daily functioning such as school and self-care, increasing sleep problems, as well as other abnormal behaviours which parents and peers will find odd and bizarre. If parents are worried, discuss the issue with your spouse and if necessary, with the teacher in school. Every school has a full time school counsellor, who can help to assess and counsel the adolescent. If necessary, a referral to a psychiatrist can then be made. Seeking help from traditional healers might only delay access to appropriate treatment.

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