Word Retrieval Difficulties in Adults

Picture this.

You are excited to share your recent trip to Broadway with your family after seeing the musical, Hamilton. While you are trying to explain the plot of the play and your favorite parts, you notice that you are having difficulty communicating your main points. You find yourself looking for the right words to say but are experiencing word retrieval problems.

What is Anomic Aphasia?

Word finding difficulties can often be referred to as “tip of the tongue phenomenon”. Many individuals often know what they want to say but have a breakdown in communication due to difficulty with accessing and retrieving the right words.

Often after brain trauma (i.e. stroke, traumatic brain injury), problems with word retrieval is referred to as anomia or anomic aphasia. Often with anomic aphasia, individuals experience word finding difficulties both with spoken language and writing.

According to the National Aphasia Association, “aphasia affects 2 million Americans and is more common than Parkinson’s Disease, cerebral palsy, or muscular dystrophy”.

Anomic aphasia is a type of language disorder after acute injury in which individuals have preserved speech and comprehension but repeatedly encounter the inability to find the correct word.

Many individuals with anomic aphasia may exhibit the following characteristics to compensate their speech.

  • Reformulation: You might try to rephrase your overall message in efforts to work around the words you can’t find.
  • Repetitions: You might try to rephrase or repeat you previous message.
  • Time Fillers: You might use “umm”, “uhh”, “a a a” during your speech with halting speech.
  • Circumlocutions: You might try to define the object you are looking for to repair the communication breakdown (“you cook with it”)
  • Semantic Paraphasia: You might use a word in the same category as the word you are looking for. (“fork” for “knife”)
  • Phonemic Paraphasia: You might use a word with the similar sounds that resemble the word you are looking for. (“tephelone” for “telephone”)
  • Neologisms: You might make up nonsense words.

In addition to the following errors, many individuals with anomia experience most difficulty with low-frequency words and names. It is possible to have difficulty with both nouns and verbs as well.

How Can Speech Therapy Help?

Although anomia is considered a mild impairment, it can be incredible frustrating for individuals as their word finding difficulties can often halt or disrupt the flow of conversation. Not only can this impact your confidence level but can make one feel burdened and embarrassed about their speech which can impact their social relationships with others.

If you or a loved one are feeling this way, our therapists at Speak Therapy can help you as we aim to provide treatment options that are rooted research and have shown to be effective for many others.

Depending on your individual needs, the following are treatment options that aim to improve neuroplasticity of the brain. Through our evidence-based practice strategies, the brain learns of adaptive ways to retrieve and process information so one may communicate more effectively.

Below are examples of techniques to improve language function in individuals with anomic aphasia.

  • Semantic Feature Analysis
  • Phonomotor Approach
  • Constraint-induced therapy
  • Melodic Intonation Therapy

Tips for Caregivers of People with Anomic Aphasia

  1. Allow extra time.

When communicating with an individual who exhibits anomic aphasia, allow extra time for them to get their message across. While many may try to fill in the gaps of their loved ones, this can be frustrating and make them feel incompetent. Instead of filling in their words, try to ask them to describe it so you can increase their confidence in repairing a communication breakdown.

  1. Acknowledge their communication.

Try to acknowledge their feelings of frustration and exhaustion by eliminating any possible distractions and noises in the area.

  1. Affirm their message.

After the individual has conveyed their message, try to summarize or expand on what they were saying.

If you or a loved one is experiencing word finding difficulties, schedule a free 15-minute consultation below.

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