Vocal “vincibility” syndrome

Vocal “vincibility” syndrome is to believe mistakenly that one’s voice is inadequate to the demands of life. Typically, an individual with this syndrome becomes progressively averse to voice use. The term “vocal ‘vincibility’ syndrome” is not found in textbooks, but is coined here to describe this kind of self-sabotaging belief system.

A classic case of this disorder was a man who taught chemistry at the college level in the 1960s and felt vocally tired at the end of lectures. Though introverted and only moderately sociable by nature, and though lectures did not occupy more than two hours of any workday, he was advised to rest his voice. The problem only became worse, however, and he was advised to take even more stringent voice rest, despite the fact that this was not helping and that, from the start, the amount of voice use in a week for this man was quite modest. Eventually this man was forced by the stress he was experiencing and also by his progressive aversion to voice use to take a job as a research chemist, where the requirement to talk was minimal. When first evaluated at the age of about 65, this man had become semi-reclusive. His wife said that within 20 minutes of the start of any social gathering, he would find her in a mild panic and insist that they leave because his voice was failing him.

Treatment for this disorder is a “vocal boot camp” approach under the supervision of a voice-qualified speech pathologist. When the patient described above did his speech therapy sessions, the physician was also on hand, so as to allay the patient’s anxiety and to examine his larynx after each session. The patient’s belief system about his voice was reconfigured only as it was proven to him that, even after “marathon” sessions of strenuous voice use, his voice was not being harmed and his vocal cords remained unbruised and quite normal-looking. Once this patient’s “vocal vincibility” subsided, he experienced a remarkable “rebirth” as a person, without further social vocal limitations.