Alogia, or the “poverty of speech” is referred to as the lack of ability to properly converse or communicate. In general speech disorders, people usually know what they would like to say, but they can’t say it due to damage to some brain or facial muscles. But in alogia, a person may not be able to communicate due to inconsistent thought patterns, lack of understanding of what is being asked, or the lack of interest in answering a question. Alogia is also different from aphasia. In aphasia, a person loses the ability to communicate completely involving both verbal and written language. In alogia, however, people can communicate through written language but they are verbally unable to do so. Alogia appears to be more associated with schizophrenia than any other disorder or occurring alone.
When present in schizophrenia, it’s considered to be a negative symptom, which means that you’ve lost a previously acquired ability. It’s the absence or inefficiency of normal behavior. In contrast to negative symptoms, positive symptoms refer to a newly formed behavior. In the case of schizophrenia, delusions and hallucinations are considered positive symptoms because they are acquired after the disease sets in, and affect the normal function of an individual.
Alogia disturbs and disrupts the lives of the affected individuals. They may be slow to respond to conversations or can withdraw completely, leading to a state of social isolation.
What are the Symptoms of Alogia?
While alogia is one of the negative symptoms of schizophrenia, it has both positive and negative symptoms.
Positive symptoms of alogia include incoherent, inconsistent, and disorganized speech. The person may come up with vague details, contrasting information, or nonsensical wording.
Negative symptoms of alogia involve thought-blocking, delayed response (response latency), and inability to converse properly.
The following are some of the most distinguished symptoms of alogia:
- Giving short, one-word answers to most questions
- Delayed response
- Laconic speech (using fewer and fewer words)
- Speech is nonsensical
- Speech lacks meaning
- Hollow, blunt, and repetitive talk
- Speech lacks content or useful information (poverty of content)
- Losing the thread of conversation (half-finished sentences because the subject has been lost)
- Speech marked by pauses (pausing between words or sentences due to disconnected thoughts)
- Not responding to direct questions
- Words are spoken in a distorted way (misuse of syllables)
- Whispering at the end of a sentence
- Frequent hunting for words because of difficulty in recalling
- Hunting for thoughts due to forgetfulness
- Speaking with a flat tone
- Having neutral or dull facial expressions during the speech
Not all or most of these symptoms need to be present in people suffering from alogia.
What are the Causes of Alogia?
The exact cause of alogia isn’t yet clear but researchers have found that it relates to how our brain stores and processes long-term memories. This type of memory is referred to as semantic memory and it is a part of long-term memory that deals with ideas and concepts unrelated to personal experiences. In other words, semantic memory is a type of long-term memory that involves the ability to recall words, ideas, or numbers that are required to use and understand language. People suffering from alogia have some sort of deficiency in brain parts that process this type of memory.
Day by day, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that a degraded semantic store leads one to develop alogia.
Several disorders appear to be associated with alogia including bipolar disorder, dementia, Alzheimer’s, psychosis, anxiety, schizophrenia, and schizotypal disorder.
Sometimes, no brain dysfunction that could cause semantic loss is present. If a person shows alogia symptoms without damage to the brain areas controlling semantic information, that’s referred to as secondary alogia. For example, in the case of schizophrenia, people may not wish to talk because a voice tells them not to speak to anyone (hallucinations). In case of psychosis, a person may not want to talk because they feel paranoid around other people. Or, for example, someone may have problems talking to other people because they feel nervous in front of them.
Generally, social situations are known to make alogia even worse. Because a lot is going on, you may not be able to think properly or have no time to do so. The same is true for stress. In a stressful event, you may find it difficult to actively engage in a conversation.
Can Alogia be Treated?
Currently, there is no specific treatment available for alogia. But researchers are trying to develop medication for the condition. As of now, the best thing to do is to combine medication with psychosocial therapy.
In the case of secondary alogia, medications are generally of great help. In the case of psychosis, for example, second-generation antipsychotic drugs can help alleviate the symptoms of psychosis. Alogia, in turn, could also get better. The same is true for schizophrenia and schizotypal disorder. There is no doubt that these drugs don’t directly affect alogia. But your speech can also improve if the primary symptoms like depression and delusions go away.
Some forms of therapies, such as speech therapy and psychosocial therapies, can also help alleviate alogia symptoms.