Busting 15 Leading Myths About Aphasia

by Team Stamurai

Aphasia makes it difficult for a person to speak. The person may also have trouble understanding spoken language. Aphasia affects communication. Although aphasia diagnosis isn’t too uncommon, there are a few myths we hear too often. It’s time to bust those myths and learn about the aphasia facts together.

Myth #1: Aphasia Is a Rare Disorder

Around 180,000 US citizens acquire aphasia each year. Almost 2 million people in the US have aphasia as per data from the National Aphasia Association.

Therefore, contrary to the popular belief, aphasia is not a rare disorder.

Myth #2: Aphasia Is Always Caused By a Stroke

Although the most common cause of aphasia in adults is a stroke (cerebrovascular accident), other incidents, diseases and disorders can also cause it.

For example, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), brain infections, gunshot wounds, and neurodegenerative diseases may also cause aphasia.

Myth #3: Aphasia Only Affects Adults

Aphasia diagnoses are more common among middle-aged and older people. However, even children and adolescents can have aphasia.

Anyone with a high risk of strokes, aneurysms, concussions, epileptic seizures, and neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s, can develop aphasia.

Diseases like meningitis, brain cancer, and brain tumors can increase a person’s chances of developing aphasia.

Myth #4: All Aphasia Diagnoses Have the Same Symptoms

The causes of aphasia can affect the outcome. Depending on the damage to the different areas of the brain, which control our language capabilities, the symptoms of aphasia diagnosis can vary.

One person’s experiences can be completely different from that of another person. There are different types of aphasia including Broca’s aphasia, Wernicke’s aphasia, and anomic aphasia.

In Broca’s aphasia, the person struggles to speak in complete sentences. They mostly speak 3-4 words at a time. Their speech sounds effortful. Therefore, experts refer to it as non-fluent apraxia.

Wernicke’s aphasia makes it difficult for a person to speak coherently although they can speak in long sentences.

In anomic aphasia, the person can understand spoken language but has trouble finding the right word while speaking.

Myth #5: Aphasia Affects Intelligence

Aphasia affects language and communication. It does not affect the intelligence of a person.

Forms of expression or understanding of spoken language do not dictate intelligence. It only affects the person’s perception of thoughts and ideas via language. It does not affect the inherent thoughts and ideas of the person.

Myth #6: Aphasia Only Affects Language

Aphasia may be a language disorder, but it affects every aspect of a person’s life. It affects their social and personal relationships. Aphasia also influences their self-esteem.

Without imminent therapy, aphasia can have an adverse impact on someone’s quality of life.

Myth #7: Aphasia Cannot Improve

Aphasia symptoms may go away partially or completely with prolonged speech therapy.

When stroke causes aphasia, the subsequent treatment and rehabilitation therapy help redress the signs and symptoms of aphasia.

Treatment of aphasia due to brain infections, TBI, and tumors may take more time. It is important to be patient and persistent, especially when the person is undergoing speech therapy for aphasia.

Aphasia may not be 100% curable in all instances but continuous speech therapy can help a person gain better control over their language skills.

Myth #8: Aphasia Either Affects Your Speech OR Your Understanding

Aphasia can affect both speech and understanding. There are several types of aphasia that range from mild to severe.

The more severe forms of aphasia can affect a person’s speech, understanding of spoken language, and reading & writing skills.

Myth #9: Aphasia Only Affects Oral Communication, Not Written

Global aphasia, which is the most severe form of the disorder, affects one’s ability to speak, read, and write. Someone with global aphasia may speak a few words, with no ability to understand spoken language.

Global aphasia is typically the result of damage to multiple parts of the brain.

Myth #10: Medications Can Cure Aphasia

Is there any medicine that can cure aphasia? Well, sadly, there is no medicine that can cure aphasia. However, depending on the cause of aphasia, you can receive medical treatment and drugs that reduce the effect of the causal factors.

For example, if there’s a blood clot that’s affecting the flow of blood to the language centers of your brain, the doctors can attempt to remove it surgically or use medicines.

That usually happens following a stroke. And once the clot is removed the person’s speech may improve dramatically.

However, due to the wide range of diseases, disorders, and incidents that can cause aphasia, it is impossible to say that medications can cure aphasia.

Myth #11: People with Aphasia Cannot Express Themselves

People with aphasia can learn to use picture boards, electronic communication devices, and communication boards.

Spoken language isn’t the only form of self-expression. Someone with aphasia can choose to use gestures or sign language to communicate.

Myth #12: Someone Can Be Born With Aphasia

Aphasia is NOT genetic. It is an acquired language disorder. Infants may also acquire aphasia due to various reasons as discussed above.

However, there isn’t any study that states that a person can be born with aphasia. Nonetheless, they may be born with other language disorders such as dysarthria and apraxia which someone can confuse with aphasia.

Myth #13: Special Diet Can Cure Aphasia

Diet has no effect on aphasia. However, monitoring your diet can help you avoid a stroke and other health disorders that lead to aphasia.

A healthy diet and lifestyle can reduce your risk of having a stroke dramatically even if you have high blood pressure or diabetes.

Myth #14: Aphasia Causes Memory Loss

Aphasia can result from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Frontotemporal Dementi (FTD). These diseases can affect a person’s long-term and short-term memory along with their language skills.

However, aphasia does not cause memory loss. The confusion may arise from the co-occurrence of aphasia with neurodegenerative diseases that affect memory.

Myth #15: Aphasia Is Muscle Weakness

Disorders inside the brain cause aphasia. It has nothing to do with the weakness of facial or vocal muscles. Only exercising the muscles of the mouth will not improve someone’s speech who has received an aphasia diagnosis. Speak to your healthcare provider and an SLP to find out about the different exercises or alternative communication methods that can help the affected person. Online speech therapy for aphasia can help an affected individual communicate better.

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