Alogia is a thought disorder involving impaired thinking that manifests as impaired language abilities. A person with alogia may say fewer words or speak vaguely or repetitively. Alogia has associations with conditions like severe depression, schizophrenia, dementia, and autism, though it can occur in a healthy person, as well.
The main signs of alogia are changes in speech and language use. Severity exists on a spectrum and the condition can occur alongside typical behaviors. People without neurological issues may experience alogia when feeling fatigued or under stress. Alogic speech may be present in certain disciplines that use language pedantically, as well as people with less education. Alogia can cause a person to slur their words, fail to pronounce consonants clearly, pause between words, or end statements as whispers.
Poverty of Speech
One of the main symptoms of alogia is the issue of poverty of speech, also known as laconic speech. Poverty of speech is essentially speech using fewer words. Replies to questions may be brief, concrete, and lacking in detail. While prompting a person to add information sometimes leads to short periods of typical speaking patterns, poverty of speech will return.
Example of Poverty of Speech
In a typical conversation, asking someone about their children might lead to a more broad discussion. Poverty of speech instead causes short and direct answers:
- Q: How old are the children?
- A: Five and seven.
- Q: Who is the five-year-old?
- A: The boy.
- Q: What is his name?
- A: Harold.
Poverty of Content
A symptom similar to poverty of speech may occur in people with alogia. This issue, poverty of content, involves a typical amount of speech that conveys little to no useful information. A person speaking with poverty of content may use terms and phrases that are vague, stereotypical, overly concrete, overly abstract, or simply repetitive.
Example of Poverty of Content
Statements that qualify as poverty of content are almost the opposite of poverty of speech. While the words are coherent and may make sense on a surface level, they lack any real meaning. In one account, a patient speaks about schizophrenia and states that he, “Would like to see schizophrenia not used as a diagnosis but instead allow full integrity or half-integrity by calling it (1) insomnia after admission or (2) a poem with one-way signs to stop ankle wear and tear.”
Researchers believe that alogia and its symptoms may be due to impairments in a certain area of the brain that processes meaning in language. Experts believe the problem is related to the dysfunction of brain circuits in the frontal lobe that eventually causes degeneration of the temporal lobe.
Alogia and Schizophrenia
As a symptom, alogia primarily occurs in people with schizophrenia or schizotypal personality disorder. Most experts consider it a negative symptom, meaning that it is a typical function that has become weaker or is absent. In alogia’s case, this would be a diminished ability to speak.Not only are negative symptoms like alogia major diagnostic signs for schizophrenia, but they also determine the potential morbidity of the condition.
Because alogia can occur in otherwise healthy people, doctors must watch for certain contextual clues that hint at it being a symptom of an underlying issue. This can involve certain speech tests, such as checking if the patient can moderate the effect or if the alogia improves when changing topics. If a physician suspects an underlying issue, it can be more effective to look for other significant symptoms.
Medical studies show that several medications ease negative symptoms of schizophrenia, including alogia. Certain antidepressants appear to have the strongest effect, but stimulants that treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy are also effective. Of the negative symptoms, alogia tends to have the second-best response to medications.
Alogia and Other Terms
In some circumstances, experts use alogia as a generic term referring to an inability to speak because of issues in the central nervous system. This means that alogia is considered a form of aphasia, an inability to produce or process language due to brain damage. Some countries use “dyslogia” to refer to less severe forms of alogia.