Archive for January 17th, 2008

Mental Illness and Foreign Accents

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

It can be interesting to read the statistics of this blog and look at those keywords that have brought visitors here from the search engines. Two keyword phrases that have brought visitors are “people with mental illness talk in foreign accents” and “mental illness british accent.”


photo by Phinias H

That caught my interest. I have not actually said anything about my son, DS, having an accent, but it is true that most people notice that my son has an interesting way of speaking. This was true for most of his life and long before his diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. He was born and raised here in Georgia, in the USA, but he does not have an American southern accent. Sometimes when meeting amiable people for the first time they will ask him where he is from. It is kind of funny to watch their reactions when he answers, “I’m from Atlanta.” My son’s way of speaking comes from his Asperger’s syndrome. Asperger’s is considered by some people to be a form of autism or pervasive developmental disorder and is a developmental disability… DS can speak, has vocabulary, etc., but it has affected communication in him in number of ways. The only way I can think to describe his speech is to say that it is precise. Sometimes he overemphasizes certain consonants and changes or softens certain vowels. It is really his own accent.

The only mention I have made of accents on this blog is in the people who have been caretakers for my son in personal care homes. It seems in this area that most personal care homes are owned and run by people with foreign language accents. The PCH my son entered last August was managed by a woman with a British accent. I believe that CA, the woman who takes care of my son today, is from Jamaica, since she mentioned something once about making a telephone call to a relative there.

Speaking of British accents, today this blog ranks about fourteenth of so in Google search for the phrase “mental illness british accent,” and nearly all the previous results are about a certain celebrity whose mental health is in question because of her recent behavior… including (supposedly) recently acquiring a British accent. I do not have any particular interest in following celebrity news, but if she were to announce some mental illness diagnosis, it would capture my attention and perhaps garner her a mention here by name.

Having my curiousity aroused I did a little of my own searching and found this academic article here: Characteristics of Psychotic Patients With Foreign Accent Syndrome.

The authors describe three patients with foreign accent syndrome during psychotic episodes which resolve with improvement of psychotic symptoms. Psychotic symptoms were worse during the times patients had foreign accents, suggesting a relationship between the presence of the accent and the severity of the psychosis.

Unfortunately you have to pay $15 to read the full article. I thought I would give it a mention for the benefit of anyone else who stumbles upon this blog looking for that connection.

The brain is certainly a mysterious thing.