by Kevin Stuckey, M.Ed., CCC-SLP
What is Anomia?
Anomic aphasia (Anomia) is a type of aphasia characterized by the consistent inability to
recall the appropriate word to identify an object, a person’s name, or numbers. Anomia is a deficit of
expressive language (ability to communicate verbally or nonverbally), but the person’s receptive language
(understanding words and gestures) is not impaired. It also applies to writing as well as speaking, as the
person can sometimes recall the word/name when given clues. Persons with anomia typically exhibit fluent,
grammatically correct speech but often speak in a roundabout way in order to avoid a name or express
a certain word they cannot recall. Examples of anomia include: difficulty naming something that’s right
in front of you (“pen”), difficulty saying who or what is in a picture (“fire fighter”), or not being able to
provide the appropriate word during conversation (“I’m going to ….”).
Anomia can occur after an injury to the language areas of the brain such as:
- Stroke—most common cause
- Traumatic head injury
- Brain tumor
- Brain infection
- Other brain conditions
Lexical Anomia occurs when a patient knows how to use an object and can correctly select the
target object from a group of objects, but cannot provide the name of the object. Some patients
with word selection anomia may exhibit selective impairment in naming particular types of objects,
such as animals or colors.
Phonological Anomia (Conduction Aphasia) occurs when a patient knows the word he/she wants to
say, but selects the wrong sounds when producing the word. Long words will be especially difficult
Semantic Anomia is a disorder in which the meaning of words becomes lost. Unlike patients with
word lexical anomia, patients with semantic anomia are unable to select the correct object from a
group of objects, even when provided the name of the target object.
Therapists can treat anomia using several different methods, and it is important to find the ones
that work best for the family of the loved one affected by aphasia. The ultimate goal is to increase the
independence of the person with aphasia. In order to do this, the patient needs to be able to do as much
as possible on his/her own.
A Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) can help preserve the language skills the patient has, try to
restore those that are lost, and assist in discovering new ways of communicating.
- Using writing or gestures to cue word retrieval
- Using flash cards with pictures and words to help name objects
- Repeating words back to the therapist
- Using computer programs designed to improve speech, hearing, reading, and writing
- Giving first sound/first letter
- Asking questions about the meaning of the word
- Pointing to a picture that corresponds to a particular word from a choice of several pictures
- Using structured fill-in-the-blank sentences (I don’t want salt, I want ____________).
Life with Anomic Aphasia
Anomic aphasia can be extremely frustrating for people with and without the disorder because
it creates communication breakdowns. Although patients with anomic aphasia may know a specific
word, they may not be able to recall it, and this can be very difficult and uncomfortable for everyone
involved in a conversation. Most caregivers start providing the words for their loved ones. This may make
conversations easier; however, it also creates a cycle of dependence on the caregiver. It is extremely
important to have patience and work with the patient until he or she gains confidence with his or her
speech. Positive reinforcements are very helpful.