No one likes being awkward about having to make small talk at a party or idle conversation during a road trip. Conversely, some people are naturally quiet and don’t say much.
The lack of conversation might make you feel hurt or frustrated — you might even think they don’t care about you. But it could result from their mental illness, brain injury, or dementia – not a personal attack against you. This lack of conversation is termed ‘alogia.’
Alogia is a disorder, with symptoms in some cases severe and, in others, more moderate. Because its symptoms can differ from patient to patient, diagnosing alogia can be difficult for mental healthcare specialists. While every case of alogia is unique, there are some potential warning signs that advocates and caregivers should be aware of. This article will look at these and define alogia, how it is caused, and what you can do about it.
So, What Exactly Is Alogia?
Pronunciation of alogia
Alogia is derived from the Greek word “logos,” meaning “lack of speech.” People with alogia lack additional and unprompted speech content, and their answers to questions may be vague, repetitive, empty, or over-specific. Generally, alogia is associated with schizophrenia, severe depression, depression, or autism.
Symptoms of Alogia
Alogia is often seen as a symptom of schizophrenia. It’s one of the first negative symptoms that come into play. Those who struggle with alogia can exhibit the following symptoms:
- Disruption in thought process and difficulty in formulating the thoughts
- Difficulty in grasping the right words mentally
- Lacking spontaneous content and expression of thoughts
- Failing even to answer when a person asks something
- Speaking indistinctly and not pronouncing consonants as usual
- The speech looks like a whisper or ends with the second syllable
Here’s an example of alogia or ‘poverty of speech:
|Poverty of Speech (Alogia)||Normal Speech|
Do you have any siblings?
Do you have any siblings?
Yes, a brother and a sister.
How old are they?
Ten and fifteen.
How old are they?
My brother is ten years old, and my sister is fifteen.
|What’s their name?
John and Joana.
What’s their name?
My brother’s name is John, and my sister’s name is Joana.
When alogia is present, thoughts seem disjointed and communications become derailed, lacking a clear goal. While this may be similar to disorganized speech discussed above, when alogia is present, the clinical character is one of significant impoverishment of thought content and a clear deficit in the ability to express an idea, whereas disorganized speech is usually characterized by expressing many ideas, although these seem disjointed and may be incoherent.
Factors That Cause Alogia
Alogia can be categorized into two types: Primary Alogia and Secondary Alogia. While primary alogia is often associated with schizophrenia and other mental disorders, secondary alogia is caused by psychosis or anxiety.
For most people, speech flow is automatic. You don’t need to think about the words you want to say next. But for a person with secondary alogia, talking takes a lot more effort. It’s something like thinking about how to walk before you walk.
On the other hand, primary alogia can be caused by several factors, including dementia, bipolar disorder, severe brain injury, depression, and Alzheimer’s. Although psychology experts aren’t entirely sure, they believe alogia happens when the semantic store (i.e., the center located in the temporal lobe of the cerebral cortex that processes the meaning of language) of a patient degrades.
In a study of 21 people with schizophrenia and 11 matched healthy subjects, the patients said fewer shared and variable words than the control in each trial. And the experts concluded that reduced verbal fluency in schizophrenia patients is due to the dysfunction of semantic storage. Therefore affects the ability to regulate and produce speech.
How do you know if primary alogia or secondary alogia is present?
The first step is to see a psychiatrist specializing in psychosis and schizophrenia for an assessment. If other organic mental disorders, such as anxiety rule out and the symptoms of alogia still exist, then chances are higher it is primary alogia.
Understanding alogia may be an essential step in finding what treatment is best. Let’s have a look at the available treatments for alogia.
Treatment for Alogia
Medication and therapy used in treating alogia vary depending on the severity of the symptom and what other symptoms are present. Following are a few methods to treat alogia:
The primary medication used to treat alogia is called an antipsychotic or antidepressant. Alogia is not a condition that can be self-diagnosed. It should only be diagnosed by a licensed medical professional familiar with the disorder. Medications may prove helpful in treating this condition, but only if it has been adequately diagnosed. If you are going to take medication, it is vital to work closely with your doctor when taking the drug and make sure that you are aware of any potential side effects.
People who suffer from alogia may be helped by therapy, which provides support and insight into the disorder. For example, speech therapy can help people with dementia or prolonged psychosis. For a schizophrenia patient, social skill training, such as behavioral rehearsal, weekly homework reassignments, etc., is recommended.
How to Cope With Alogia?
Living with alogia is frustrating, challenging, and exhausting. The patient can withdraw from family and friends, and it’s not something that will go away overnight. However, you can take steps to improve your quality of life.
- Feelings of not speaking out loud or having your thoughts heard may affect you and your close ones in many different ways. Your loved ones may have noticed that you have changed your behavior. Let those around you know how they can support you when experiencing feeling mute.
- If you have alogia (primary or secondary), talking to a healthcare provider about your thoughts and feelings is very important. Your doctor or mental health professional can help you get started on a plan for making things better for you.
- As a rule of thumb, taking prescription medication for alogia should be supervised by a doctor. Medication should only be taken as prescribed and monitored by a healthcare professional.
- Books and internet videos can also help expand your knowledge about the subject. If you are suffering from symptoms, read books and watch videos to understand better what you’re experiencing. Though it will not mitigate alogia, you will feel more relaxed as you can put it all into context.
If you have a friend or family member who uses fewer words than usual and often avoids answering questions directly, signs of alogia may be present. A person’s symptoms of alogia can be one of the early warning signs of schizophrenia. The sooner the problem is identified, the easier the treatment will be.
If you are uncertain whether your problems are caused by alogia, your physical doctor can help you with the first step. That suggests a mental health professional for further tests and assessments.
Refusing to ask for and receive help when you need it is perhaps the most devastating mistake a person with alogia can make. It will only compound the problems and make the situation worse. So, feel free to talk to your friends, family, and doctor.
- Alpert, M., Shaw, R. J., Pouget, E. R., & Lim, K. O. (2002). A comparison of clinical ratings with vocal acoustic measures of flat affect and Alogia. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 36(5), 347–353. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0022-3956(02)00016-x
- Chen, R. Y. L., Chen, E. Y. H., Chan, C. K. Y., Lam, L. C. W., & Lieh-Mak, F. (2000). Verbal fluency in schizophrenia: Reduction in Semantic Store. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 34(1), 43–48. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1440-1614.2000.00647.x
- Kapalka, G. M. (2010). Nutritional and herbal therapies for children and adolescents: A handbook for mental health clinicians (practical resources for the Mental Health Professional). Academic Press.