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Aphasia describes a symptom where a patient has difficulty in using language or a complete inability to use language. It can manifest itself in a number of ways. It is almost always a result of brain damage, usually a trauma to the head. However, it can also result from an infection, stroke or tumor. It often appears together with dementia. The exact symptoms usually are directly related to the area and scope of the brain damage. Patients exhibiting aphasia should receive a differential from a neurologist. However, once all possible physical causes are eliminated, patients are usually referred to a language pathologist. Most aphasia is treatable, although patients can take up to two years to recover fully.

Aphasia can present as:

  • Inability to comprehend a language
  • Inability to pronounce words, even though there is no pathology of the speaking parts of the mouth and throat
  • Inability to speak spontaneously
  • Inability to form words
  • Inability to name objects
  • Poor enunciation
  • Constant creation of new words only the patient uses consistently and understands
  • Inability to repeat a phrase
  • Persistent repetition of the same phrase
  • Substituting one word for another
  • Inability to form grammatically correct sentences
  • Strange patterns of stress and rhythm within a sentence
  • Sentences that are not completed
  • Inability to read
  • Inability to write
  • Very small active vocabulary


In Love Hurts, a patient suffering the aftereffects of a stroke can speak, but has difficulty coming up with words for the names of things.

In Failure to Communicate, a patient believes he is speaking normally, but is in fact just putting together normal English words at random in what sounds like nonsense.

In Fetal Position, a woman having a stroke starts by having visual aphasia - words written on a wall look like the letters are all mixed up.

In Better Half, the patient loses the ability to speak English after an episode of hypothermia, although he can still speak Portuguese.

In Chase, Moira Parker exhibits Broca's aphasia, the slurring of words, as a result of bleeding from her carotid artery leading to a loss of flow of blood to the brain.

Aphasia on Wikipedia