A TEENAGER is determine to help others after overcoming a disorder which meant she could only talk to members of her own family.

Isabella Turner, an 18-year-old from West Thurrock, battled a condition called selective mutism between the ages of two and 16.

Selective mutism means people struggle to speak in certain scenarios and affects around one in 140 young children.

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Isabella, who is a part-time model, says she was only able to talk to her parents and siblings.

But the isolation of lockdown shifted her mindset, showing her how important social interactions are.

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Her selective mutism is now a thing of the past, and Isabella is now determined to help others.

She said: “Lockdown made me realise that talking to people was a luxury that I had previously been taking for granted.

“It showed me anything can happen, and by succumbing to my social anxiety, I was wasting my life.”

Isabella believes her condition started when she accidentally held a stranger's hand, aged just two.

She said the experience knocked her confidence at a crucial stage in her early life.

Originally, people labelled her shy, but in primary school, after refusing to speak with her teachers or classmates, she was officially diagnosed.

Isabella added: “I was on holiday at Butlin's and instead of reaching out and holding my parent's hand, I grabbed a stranger's.

“When I realised, I freaked out, and the disorder came about shortly after that.

“I began constantly freezing up when I went to say something, and despite teachers' best efforts to get me talking when I started school, I was still more or less mute.

“In secondary school I came out of my shell a bit more. But I was very quiet, so I didn't make any friends.

“In Year 10, just before Covid, I remember it affecting my studies, and the news that we were locking down came as a huge relief to me.”

Isabella says she felt completely isolated at the start of the pandemic, which began in March 2020.

Apart from contact with her parents, she spoke to no one and after a while, to her surprise, she missed contact with people on the outside world.

Isabella says she then held on to that feeling and after changing schools in Year 11 for a fresh start, she was finally able to overcome her disorder.