Have you ever imagined how it would be to have difficulty finding words when speaking? How about not being able to say what you mean or having trouble understanding a simple question?
It’s exactly in these situations that people with aphasia find themselves daily. Some can’t dive into a novel with ease like their friends can. Others find it difficult to express their emotions and thoughts. Think of it as constantly being at a loss for words — an absolutely frustrating feeling.
Read on to find out more about different types of aphasia, symptoms, and treatment.
Why Do You Have Difficulty Finding Words When Speaking?
If it’s often hard finding words when speaking, it is usually a sign of a language disorder called aphasia. The most common cause of aphasia is a stroke. However, other types of brain trauma can cause it as well, such as a brain tumor, a head injury, or a brain infection. In each case, the parts of your brain that control language are damaged, and in turn, your language-related abilities suffer.
An important thing to stress is that aphasia is not connected to intelligence in any way. It just affects your ability to comprehend language. So, you could function perfectly fine, but in situations where you have to talk to someone, you find yourself constantly hitting the wall.
Certain factors make it even harder to find words when speaking. For example, if you are in a crowded area where it’s loud, you will find it more challenging to understand what other people are saying. Also, if you are tired, you may struggle to communicate.
Different Types of Aphasia
1. Expressive (Non-Fluent) Aphasia
Patients with expressive aphasia have a problem expressing themselves. They know what they want to say but have difficulty communicating their ideas. Not only do they have difficulty finding words when speaking but also when writing. So when they talk, they speak in short sentences, have longer pauses between spoken words, etc.
2. Receptive (Fluent) Aphasia
With this type of aphasia, patients can speak complex sentences with ease. The problem is that those sentences may not make sense to others, because the patients look at language literally.
They can’t comprehend nuanced language connections and because communication involves these nuances they often can’t get their message across. They may also have a hard time understanding what others are saying. So answering rapid-fire questions is like being trapped in a horror movie.
3. Anomic Aphasia
While this is the mildest type, people with anomic aphasia have difficulties in everyday activities. They can’t remember names for everyday objects, even if they are looking at them, so they may need to use descriptions instead. They find it hard to think of the correct words, which can be very frustrating as it seems like what they are looking for is right at the tip of their tongue.
4. Global Aphasia
Global aphasia is the most severe type of aphasia, caused by extensive damage to the brain. Patients can neither read nor write and barely (if at all) understand spoken language. Global aphasia also affects their speaking ability as they can produce very few understandable words.
If brain damage is severe, patients will have a lasting disability. Still, they may fully retain other, non-speech-related abilities and skills, such as using facial expressions, hand gestures, or changing the tone to express themselves.
5. Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA)
Finally, primary progressive aphasia is caused by a degeneration of the brain tissue of the areas responsible for language. PPA is different from other types of aphasia as it occurs gradually. Over time, people with PPA lose their ability to speak, read, and write.
What is interesting, although not encouraging, is that after you lose communication abilities, other negative changes may follow, such as memory loss.
The symptoms of aphasia vary depending on many factors, including the type of aphasia you have and its severity. But generally speaking, the symptoms include:
• Trouble understanding what other people are saying
• Trouble reading
• Speaking in short sentences
• Difficulty finding words when speaking
• Trouble speaking
• Putting the words in the wrong order
• Mispronouncing words
• Difficulty in following long conversations
• Trouble writing
Depending on whether aphasia is mild or severe, symptoms may be more or less pronounced. The severity may affect your ability to communicate and understand conversations. What’s more, you may have a difficult time with handwritten text.
Living with a language disorder like aphasia can be a painful experience. Having difficulty finding words when speaking is just one of many problems you face every day. Luckily, you can work on rehabilitating your communication ability. How you will approach treatment depends on these factors:
• Cause and type of aphasia
• The size and placement of trauma
If you have a tumor on your brain, the best option perhaps is to have surgery. On the other hand, if you experienced a stroke, you could benefit from speech therapy immensely.
Speech therapy aims to restore your ability to communicate as much as it is possible. To do so, you work on your language skills, but you also learn new ways to communicate that are non-verbal. Your speech therapist does reading and writing exercises with you, incorporates drawings and pictures in speaking activities, etc.
Keep in mind that speech therapy is a long process — so don’t get discouraged! Yes, you will have to take it one appointment at a time, but you will improve eventually.
Family and Speech Therapy
Family can impact the progress of speech therapy in a big way. They can serve as the speech therapist’s right hand. In fact, therapists often encourage family members to work with their loved ones on building their confidence back up.
Your family can help by setting a relaxed atmosphere. They should speak slowly to you and remain calm. Any chance they get, they should reassure you and give you credit for trying to speak.
Most importantly, you have to feel you have all the time in the world to speak. People with aphasia often struggle because they think others are rushing them. That shouldn’t be the case here. Your family ought to help you speak and write at your own pace, and you will see improvement over time.