Aphasia is a complex communication disorder. It’s caused by a disruption in the typical functioning of the brain’s language centers. It can occur at any age resulting from a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or a progressive neurological condition.
Challenges communicating often profoundly alter how one performs daily activities. Frustrations may impact one’s desire to perform these activities or engage socially, affecting connections with friends, loved ones, and one’s sense of self. Persistent difficulties engaging socially can lead to feelings of isolation causing one to lose touch with their deeper sense of purpose and impacting quality of life. Consequently, many people living with aphasia grapple with depression. In fact, research shows that aphasia has a larger negative impact on quality of life than any other disease, (National Aphasia Association n.d.).
Retraining and rebuilding communication skills can reduce these barriers. Using strategies that ease information processing , increase access to different expressive modalities, and repair breakdowns can significantly enhance social connections and community participation, ultimately restoring one’s sense of wellbeing.
Communication Disorders Are More Common Than You Think
It’s estimated that 2 million people across the USA live with aphasia. A third of stroke survivors experience aphasia, (National Aphasia Association n.d.).
Aphasia is a communication disorder affecting one or more of the following skills:
- Understanding and processing information
Aphasia may co-occur with a cognitive disorder which can impact one or more of the following:
- Executive functioning
- Problem solving
- Organizing and linking ideas for communication
Symptoms and severity vary widely from individual to individual. Symptoms are likely to fluctuate throughout any given day and overtime as a result of various environmental conditions, medications, emotional states, and disease progression.
The Connection Between Aphasia and Depression
As aphasia affects a person’s ability to communicate easily and efficiently in various ways, one can appreciate the cascade of changes that may accompany such a significant and unexpected life upheaval. Moreover, changes in physical comfort are often part of one’s daily lived experience.
Difficulties with thinking, speaking, understanding, and physical comfort can understandably lead to emotional ups and downs. Due to the complexity and encompassing nature of aphasia, it’s often hard to pinpoint or explain what is emotionally activating making it harder to internally regulate. Vicious cycles of frustration and loneliness may ensue.
Prolonged experiences like this can lead to depression and apathy. These symptoms usually confound one’s motivation, engagement, and commitment to goals which will negatively impact a host of health and rehabilitation outcomes.
Knowing this, it’s imperative that both patients and healthcare professionals recognize the monumental impact that mental health has on treatment gains and health outcomes. Prioritizing retraining those skills that harness connections to oneself, people, and activities that bring joy are critical to establishing a strong sense of purpose, commitment and optimism toward a successful outcome.
Speech therapy is an essential component of optimizing health and wellness. By introducing exercises and compensatory aids that rebuild and retrain communication modalities, one can ensure that they stay connected to the people and activities that matter most. Meaningful connections help to reduce symptoms of frustration, isolation, and depression. Access to a variety of tools that augment one’s ability to process information, understand a loved one, or speak with a doctor, can offer relief, hope, and optimism.
How Speech Therapy can Help Reduce Symptoms of Depression
Living with aphasia is challenging. The right treatment program that integrates thoughtful and personalized cognitive-linguistic exercises that optimizes for life participation and psychosocial wellbeing can ensure that you or your loved one continue to live a life of fulfillment and joy. Individuals with communication disorders can ameliorate health and wellness outcomes through specialized speech therapy sessions, support groups, and activities that cater to their communication needs.
This is because language and communication strengthens ties to friends, loved ones, healthcare teams, and activities that one values. Language is used to share needs and preferences, meaningfully participate in routines of daily life, therapies, and share experiences. In this way, implementing strategies that augment successful communication and repair breakdowns enhance emotional coping and well-being by promoting opportunities for continued connections and improved participation in rehabilitation treatments with a multidisciplinary team all which fuel the momentum of one’s progress and gains.
Further, connections help to keep one motivated and dedicated to goals through the ups and downs of recovery, maintenance programs, and general health management. By contrast, limitations expressing oneself and feeling misunderstood foster senses of loss, loneliness, and despair. These will intensify challenges communicating making it harder to organize ideas, find the right words, or even have the motivation to want to participate in social or rehabilitation activities.
Speech therapy that addresses underlying language and communication needs to participate in all forms of rehabilitation and share experiences with loved ones is thus an essential component of overall health management. It offers individuals with aphasia and their loved ones thoughtful, personalized, and useful communication tools to support processing, understanding, and connecting, in order to collectively build strategies for coping and to ensure maximum life participation and shared moments of joy.
Communication strategies should always be specifically tailored to each individual’s circumstance catering to the particular needs of the patient, family, and care team. These may include use of visual aids, graphics, written text, tablets and apps, or a particular communication style to help individuals process and share experiences in a way that facilitates ease communicating.
Open Lines Speech and Communication, P.C. Can Help!
At Open Lines™ Speech and Communication, P.C., we understand the interplay between aphasia, psychosocial wellbeing, and wellness outcomes. We work to provide tailored solutions to meet the needs of our clients. We believe that everyone is deserving and has the potential to experience confidence and participate actively in their community. Our team of trained licensed speech-language pathologists empowers our clients with the language and cognitive-communication tools they need to succeed, whether that be advocating for needs and preferences, actively engaging other professionals, participating in treatment programs, communicating with loved ones, or navigating the challenges of aphasia.
No matter where you are in your health journey, progress and improvement is possible! Open Lines™ Speech and Communication offers intensive programs that can be done online, in the comfort of your own home, or in our office. These programs can breathe new life into your communication skills and help you get back to living fully. Let Open Lines™ guide you towards the path to recovery. Contact us today to chat about your goals and explore your service options.