Beginners Guide to MS

Multiple Sclerosis: Language Problems

Language Problems and Multiple Sclerosis

"I tried to tell him I didn't like doctor's appointments because they made me nervous, just like a dental appointment. Somehow, the words that came out were that I hated doctors. Needless to say, things went downhill from there!"

Language is another area which multiple sclerosis can affect. Unseen, this particular aspect can be quite insidious in how it affects everyday interactions with other people, often making effective communication difficult.

Language Problems

Language difficulties arising from multiple sclerosis can be subtle or they can be overt. 'Finding the right words' is a phrase used often but for people with multiple sclerosis, this cliché is more than a saying, it is a fact of everyday life.

Language problems can be mild, with the sufferer experiencing some minor difficulty with recall; where the right word is 'in there somewhere' or 'on the tip of the tongue', but proves elusive nonetheless. Substitution of an alternative word is usually enough to overcome this momentary problem when speaking.

More severe forms of language dysfunction can occur where verbal expression is badly hampered. Typically, the words are there, somewhere; it is remembering them that is the problem and this can break the fluency of conversation, leading to a reluctance to participate and a sense of isolation.

Other ways language problems can manifest themselves is when you try to say one thing, but something entirely different comes out. Somewhere between thinking it, and the words actually coming out of your mouth, they (the words) have been substituted.

If you are fortunate, the substituted words will approximate to what it was you were trying to say. If you are not so lucky, your substituted words will convey an entirely different meaning than the one you intended. They may not even be relevant at all and you may respond with something entirely inappropriate to the conversation.

Language Problems: A Temporary Event

It is important to realize then, that the areas of the brain which deals with spoken language can be affected.

Usually, this is very much a temporary event even if it does last for several weeks or months, and although it may be distressing, interrupt normal socializing and leading to self-imposed 'isolation' in some instances, it will often pass.

If you are affected by language difficulties, try to stay within reach of a normal social life even if you do not feel like it. You may need to modify how you interact with others if you are uncomfortable with how you feel but there is every chance you will return to normal over time and regain your confidence.

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