Estimates vary, but approximately 2 million people in the United States have aphasia. Despite this, it’s not a well-known condition. If you’re unaware of or unfamiliar with aphasia, you’re not alone. And unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation about the condition. Here we’ll take a look at some of the most common myths and misconceptions we hear about aphasia and do our best to set the record straight.
Myth 1: Aphasia Affects Intelligence
Aphasia is a language disorder that one acquires, often from a stroke or brain injury. We know that aphasia can affect all forms of language. That includes speaking, reading, listening, and writing. What aphasia doesn’t affect is intelligence. The reason this myth is so common is that some people mistakenly equate language with intelligence. Aphasia affects and disrupts the ability to access thoughts via language, but it doesn’t stop an individual from having thoughts or ideas.
Myth 2: All Aphasia Diagnoses Are The Same
Our brains are complex. One person’s experience with aphasia can vary drastically from another’s. In general, aphasia is defined as an acquired condition that affects a person’s ability to process, use, and/or understand language. Not unlike other medical conditions, there are various types of aphasia and unique experiences within each. Some of the more common types of aphasia include Broca’s aphasia, Wernicke’s aphasia, and anomic aphasia. There are several more types of aphasia, and while there are common characteristics, each type presents unique symptoms.
Myth 3: Aphasia Is Always Caused By A Stroke
It’s true that stroke is the most common cause of aphasia. Stroke incidence is relatively frequent. According to the CDC, more than 795,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke each year. A stroke does not always result in aphasia. Approximately one-third of people who have a stroke will experience aphasia. A stroke however is not the only way to acquire aphasia.
One of the more common causes of aphasia is a traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBIs are more common than strokes, with an estimated 1.5 million Americans sustaining one each year, according to the CDC. These brain injuries can lead to aphasia, typically when then the brain’s language center is affected.
While stroke and traumatic brain injury are the two most common causes, there are still more causes of aphasia. Brain tumors, brain surgery, brain infection, and dementia are all among other causes of aphasia.
Myth 4: Aphasia Cannot Improve
If you’ve followed along so far, you might have noticed a common theme: Every person is different. Recovery fits into that same theme. Some people with aphasia will recover entirely. Some will always live with aphasia, though they too can continue to improve. Perhaps the biggest aspect of this myth is that there is a time limit, after which improvement is never possible. With continued therapy, many people with aphasia can continue to see improvements years after an initial diagnosis. Ultimately, aphasia is complex. We know how it can upend the lives of those around it. Even with lifelong aphasia, therapists can help to create strategies that allow for greater life participation.
Do you have any questions about aphasia? Leave a comment below!
Can the inability to speak be caused by mental illness ? Can the inability to speak be classified as a disability like blindness, inability to hear ? Can the inability to speak be called a chronic condition like rheumatoid arthritis ?
Hi Nettie! It depends on what the underlying condition causing the inability to speak is. It is best to talk to a doctor and SLP about the person’s medical and speech diagnoses.