Commonly Overlooked Symptoms of Alogia
Alogia can be a symptom of various mental health conditions; however, it is most frequently associated with schizophrenia. It is considered a negative symptom because it reduces one’s ability to do something, in this case, hold effective conversations with others. For some, alogia, whether related to schizophrenia or otherwise, can lead to social isolation and other emotional health challenges.
What is Alogia?
The word alogia essentially means “without speech.” It refers to limited speech that occurs due to an impairment in thought that affects one’s language abilities. When someone has alogia, they will use fewer words when communicating with others. When asked a question, they will only answer specifically what was asked rather than offering elaboration or qualifying their statements. They will speak in ways that may be repetitive, overly concrete, abrupt, and vague.
An example of alogia
If you wonder what the speech pattern of someone with alogia may be, consider the below example:
Question: Did you go shopping today?
Question: What did you buy?
Question: What store did you go to?
Answer: The grocery store.
Traditional speech patterns often include greater elaboration when responding to questions. For example, someone without alogia may provide greater detail about the name of the store they went to and what food items they purchased, and perhaps even how particular items fit into the weekly household menu.
What Causes Alogia?
Although it is most commonly associated with schizophrenia, alogia can be caused by other mental health diagnoses and physical injuries, including dementia, traumatic brain injury, severe depression, Alzheimer’s, bipolar disorder, and schizotypal disorder. To determine if alogia is related to schizophrenia, it is essential to work with a mental health provider like our team at The Meadowglade to rule out other mental health conditions.
The exact cause of alogia remains unknown. However, research suggests it is related to nerve connection problems that occur with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia affects the central nervous system, and these impacts may prevent someone with schizophrenia from retrieving words and phrases from memory. Because schizophrenia affects both the function and structure of certain parts of the brain, accessing both short and long-term memories or words and phrases can be challenging.
Symptoms of Alogia
Most alogia symptoms are considered negative symptoms related to schizophrenia. However, alogia can include both positive and negative symptoms depending on how the illness and co-occurring illnesses emerge. Positive symptoms of alogia present when there is poverty in the content of speech. Different than poverty of speech in general, poverty in the content of speech includes speech patterns that are incoherent, vague, or disorganized. Positive symptoms of alogia are more common in individuals with schizophrenia than the often-overlooked negative symptoms described below.
Negative alogia symptoms include thought blocking, poverty of speech, and response latency (slowed or delayed responses). Between 15% and 30% of people with diagnosed schizophrenia experience negative symptoms. Someone with alogia may present with some or all of the below negative symptoms.
- Having difficulty finding the right words to use
- Challenges formulating thoughts to create speech
- Flat tone
- Slurring words
- Dull facial expression when speaking to others
- Repetitive, vague, or empty speech patterns
- Nonsensical speech (although in average amounts)
- Blunt speech or speech that uses very few words (poverty of speech)
- Lack of spontaneous speech (only answering precisely what was asked)
- Using short and one-word answers
- Failing to respond when asked a direct question
- Long pauses between words or taking a long time to begin speaking after being asked a question
- Though blocking
- Poverty of content (talking a lot without saying anything)
- Inability to pronounce consonants clearly or ending words at the second syllable (even if they are longer
- Trailing off to a whisper at the end of a sentence
Seeking Treatment for Alogia
Alogia itself is not a separate diagnosis but a symptom of another condition. Therefore, treatment for alogia generally involves addressing the symptoms of the underlying disease, most commonly schizophrenia. Like many mental health conditions, there is no single or most effective treatment method for the positive or negative symptoms of schizophrenia, including alogia. The most effective therapy programs are those that are started early, as soon as the first warning signs of schizophrenia are apparent.
Comprehensive treatment for schizophrenia at a program like The Meadowglade typically includes a combination of therapy and medications.
Mental health providers use a variety of evidence-based therapy models to address mental health treatment needs. Because there is no singular “gold standard” treatment approach for many people who seek therapy, an ideal treatment program is developed by working closely with your treatment team. After a careful and comprehensive assessment of your symptoms and immediate treatment needs, they can choose one or more therapy models to help you reach your therapeutic goals.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most common and often most effective evidence-based therapy models. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) employs talk therapy to address mental health concerns related to schizophrenia, such as inner thoughts, emotional responses to those thoughts, and your actions related to your thoughts. CBT encourages participants to consider their beliefs and how they affect each aspect of their lives. Participants are then asked to substitute negative thoughts and emotions with positive ones. Talk therapy, such as CBT, can help individuals with schizophrenia develop the coping tools they need to manage their symptoms and function in their daily tasks.
Antipsychotic medications are generally the most effective pharmaceutical option for addressing schizophrenia symptoms. Research suggests antipsychotics work by normalizing the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, allowing the cells in the brain to communicate more effectively. Although antipsychotic medications benefit as many as 80% of people in treatment, some antipsychotics may worsen negative symptoms like alogia.
Because of the risk of worsening negative symptoms, it is important to communicate with your provider about any side effects you experience when taking an antipsychotic medication. There are several options available, so if one causes unpleasant side effects or worsens other symptoms of your illness, your provider may recommend trying a different prescription. One of the most significant challenges to including medication as part of a mental health treatment plan is that a certain amount of trial and error is often necessary before an ideal medication and dose are found. Common examples of antipsychotic medications used in schizophrenia treatment include Risperdal, Abilify, Haldol, Clozaril, and Seroquel, among others.
It is also important to remember that certain medications may impact other aspects of your health. Some newer antipsychotic medications have been shown to increase cholesterol, blood sugar, or triglycerides. Your provider at The Meadowglade will consider your current medical and mental health before choosing a medication for your treatment.
Another category of medications sometimes used to treat schizophrenia symptoms are antidepressants. Various antidepressant medications may be taken along with antipsychotic drugs. Combining antipsychotics and antidepressants may help to further reduce the impact of specific symptoms allowing you to fully engage in treatment.
Coping with Alogia
Alogia and other schizophrenia symptoms can have a notable impact on your quality of life. When someone has difficulty communicating effectively because of alogia, they may avoid places and situations that could force them to socialize. This often leads to isolation from friends and family. In time, it can become difficult to interact with co-workers and peers. Some may find they have difficulty finding or maintaining work due to challenges with communication. Below are a few tips you can try to manage alogia or help a friend or loved one who is living with alogia symptoms.
- Understand your limitations and try (whenever possible) to avoid actively engaging in situations that will be stressful and potentially worsen your alogia symptoms.
- Talk about your condition with those around you. Help friends, co-workers, and loved ones learn more about lack of speech and how it affects your communication ability. The better people understand how alogia impacts you, the more helpful they can be.
- Work closely with your medical and mental health professional to develop a coping plan to use when and if symptoms worsen. It is better to plan ahead for future challenges to ensure you have a plan of action to put in place during times when your thoughts may be less clear.
- If your provider has prescribed medications or ongoing therapy, be sure to continue following your provider’s instructions. Even if your symptoms are in a good place now, relapse can occur. Maintaining your medication and therapy routine can help you avoid many potential challenges.
- Don’t be afraid to research alogia and schizophrenia. Watch videos, read books, and find other ways to educate yourself about your symptoms. Having a better understanding of how alogia affects you can help reduce your stress levels when symptoms worsen.
- Look for local peer support groups. If you find that alogia symptoms lead to isolation, engaging with others who share similar challenges can offer support and a group of peers you can turn to during challenging times or when you need extra help.
If you are concerned that alogia is the result of an underlying or undiagnosed condition, reach out to your primary care provider or a member of our mental health treatment team at The Meadowglade. We can help you better understand your symptoms and learn more about how treating schizophrenia or other possible contributing mental health conditions can reduce the severity of your symptoms.
If you or a loved one has schizophrenia and experiences alogia as a negative symptom, therapy is the most effective way to start your healing journey. At our California treatment program, we will help you learn more about coping tools and strategies you can use to manage alogia and other schizophrenia symptoms. Contact a member of our admissions team today to learn more about our programs.