It's good to talk
For more than a decade Hiten Vyas hid a secret that was blighting his life. He felt ashamed of the stammer he had developed and, at times, would lie awake thinking of ways to avoid getting into situations where he was going to have to speak to people.
Although there is no cure for the condition, the 33-year-old from south Leicester has fought to overcome problems and is now helping others with the same affliction.
Hiten can still remember the day he began to stammer.
He said: "I was 10-years-old and at school we were sitting in a circle around the teacher.
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"The other kids were rushing to ask questions but, when it came to my turn, I just felt a block in my speech. I struggled to get the words out.
"After that it started to happen quite a few times and I didn't understand what was going on. As I moved into my teenage years, I realised there was a problem, but I felt so ashamed and that I couldn't speak to anyone about it."
Hiten found the best way round the problem was to keep quiet.
His rationale was that if he did not speak, he would not have to struggle to get the right words out.
It soon began to earn him labels, such as "he's very shy" and "he's very quiet".
He also learned to hide his stammer by substituting words and phrases when he ran into problems.
Hiten said: "There were times when I would physically struggle to get words out.
"One word I used to dread was 'congratulations' so, for example, at a wedding I would say 'all my best wishes' just to avoid saying 'congratulations'.
"I had very little self-confidence and didn't have any girlfriends. I didn't think any girl would accept me."
At 23, while working on a PhD, Hiten decided enough was enough.
He said: "I was living in a state of constant anxiety and realised that I was missing out on so much.
"I went on the internet and discovered all these forums and for the first time realised that I wasn't alone.
"One of the girls encouraged me to talk about it and then one night there was a television programme on about, stammering, and I mentioned to my family that I had the same problem.
"They were so supportive – all those years I had spent worrying on my own, when I needn't have."
Hiten's GP referred him to a speech and language therapist, who taught him a way of breathing to try to overcome the problem.
His breakthrough came when he heard about a psychotherapy approach to help him overcome anxiety issues.
Hiten said: "It worked for me. It completely changed my self-image.
"I would go into the street and practise by talking to complete strangers and I found that the more I spoke, the more confident I became and I forgot that I had a stammer."
Hiten now works as a life coach helping people who find it difficult to communicate, including those who stammer.
He said: "Because of the way I have changed the way I see myself, I am able to get over my stammer quicker."