Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Poverty of Speech/Thought

My 32 year old son has shown signs of schizophrenia for approx. 5 years, the physios symptoms are non existent for the past year presently.

His biggest symptom is what I have Dr. Googled as “Poverty of Speech” and the flat effect - he basically will not speak unless spoken to, has no expression, delay in answering questions, looks confused if he has to think of a response and a lot of the responses are almost canned. For instance, I may ask him why he has not had any involvement with friends in years and his answer would be " I have been in school". The weird thing is he CAN speak, it’s not like he can’t, he just doesn’t. If he wants something and needs to argue for it the words flow out no problem. If he is at a family function, he will not speak a word to anyone. He hasn’t seen friends for years, or done anything that’s age appropriate for him unless it’s with his father and myself, which is fine, but would rather see him out with his own age group. If he is not with us, he is by himself.

He has just agreed to medication (Abilify) which I am hoping will help with the non verbal aspect of this symptom.

Can anyone share their stories about this?

Thanks for your time!



Hi my son will be 31 on 19th March he gets paid his benefit money then buys alcohol with it , he use to smoke weed but says it doesn’t do anything , he doesn’t believe there’s anything wrong with him , he lives with me and I take care of him , things won’t change I know now but I just am learning to cope in the hard times :smile:that’s good your son has agreed to take meds ,take care :heart:


That’s how it started with my son (my best guess anyway). It was oxy’s for him 5-6 years ago, behavior went South fast and he has for the most part refused help. He did have psychosis early on but as the years went by it was less frequent and now non existent.

He won’t go on any benefits, which is another story and is not working and not really doing anything. He says he just wants to get a job, but with his lack of social skills and flat effect that will not happen.

Very frustrating, I am hoping someone else has experience with this (poverty of speech) and has any suggestions.


My son doesn’t speak that much but it’s good to talk to him about what he likes them he talks , I try to show intrest in what he enjoys , hope this can be some help :smile:


Hi Cindy, congratulations on your son being on meds.

What you are describing happened to my son about 6 years in from initial symptoms. He was at grad school (did not complete the first year). A little different, mine would find himself actually unable to speak. He wanted to speak when asked a question by his professors and found himself incapable. It was the first time he tried to get medical help. The university med office sent him to a psychologist. He tried to write papers and was not capable. He also changed the way he walked in this time period. His arms just kind of hung straight down and his gait was stiff.

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My son is like that too, ridged, arms hang and almost uncomfortable. I too get the feeling that it’s not that he doesn’t want to, he is just unable.

Hope and Gursevak14 lose all friends? My son associates with no-one except for myself and his Dad.

Hope, is your son ok now?

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I just wrote how our boy is talking for several hours a day now…but only to me.

He’s been silent for years.

Most of his life actually.

BUT, Dad is naturally a quiet guy. We also accept that this would be a part of our son’s personality if he wasn’t dx. The zombiness, or flat affect is the additional aspect.

In public, to me he looks normal. To others, he does not. It’s apparent…the look in the eyes mostly.

There are times he will go off verbally in public. Talking to everyone, about everything…sometimes not good, always awkward and does cause some upset for him. (He doesn’t know how to end one of these “conversations”…and will say so with all seriousness.)

I get it…and then again, each one is different.

First pic: at a resturant, he did NOT want to be there…this is the “I’m going to lose it” face.
Second pic: with his pdoc (he still has this doctor…he’s taller than him now!) He CAN smile.
Third pic: what he looks like now…generally a flat look like this…I get a slight smile, as you can see.


Yes, mine lost all of his friends, he was the one that isolated away from them years ago in the early stages - it was his first symptom.

Thanks for asking, Jeb texted me last week and he had contacted social security himself to find out what would happen if he tries to work a few hours a month. He sounded pretty okay, in the middle of the texting he sent me a “shut up” text so I know he heard a voice, I just ignored it, but did feel some apprehension. His landlord hasn’t contacted me, must be okay, so far.


Thanks for all of your replies. It’s very frustrating and after years of dealing with it I just don’t want to anymore. But at least now he is going to try medication, but I have heard that is not the answer to everything either. He basically does nothing all day and I know that can’t help him but you can’t force a 32 year old man to do anything they don’t want to.


Exactly our problem - I can’t make a 36 year old either.

I really hope meds work well for yours. I know scz can be disheartening.


Have a 20 year old who won’t do a thing…unless of course there’s a reward or some form of compensation…example, needing or wanting something.

CAN do, but WON’T do…without an agenda!


I know each case is different, but how do you know when they are “able” - and just not doing anything, or not able - just not possible due to the illness?

My son is impeccably dressed, wants to work, but not at Home Depot type jobs, went to school for Mechanical Engineering (got the first year but not the second) and does many other things for himself but will not take my advice that will help, that will move his life forward. He hasn’t worked or went to school in 5 months or so.

He sits in a basement all day long, if you ask him what he did all day, he says I did nothing.

I can’t commit him, he poses no harm to himself or others. It’s like he is a shell of a man that can speak but doesn’t, completely has the flat/blunted affect, has no relationships with peers his own age, goes NO WHERE unless myself or his father takes him.

He is 32 - at what point do you say enough? I take ativan nightly so I can sleep, I think I would be committed if I didn’t.

The frustrating thing I find is, I have no clue how “capable” he is. I know he has a mental illness, but I really have no definitive clue what it is. It’s like he has Autism type symptoms, but prior to the age of 25, he was ok.



It sounds like he has never truly been diagnosed or on any type of medication - that this was a sudden occurrence that has not ended? I am hoping i am on the right track - if not, i apologize in advance.

If the above is the case, it would seem to be that he would need to have some assessments done. Would he be willing to go to your family doctor first - say?? for a physical? You could call his doctor in advance and relay the concerns you see.

If then, a his primary sees him - he/she could make suggestions that son may agree to - “help him feel better”.

Then, follow that path into some counseling? Or anything to do with a Community Health System…which again, prior to the actual appointment - you would convey your concerns.

There are NO HIPPA laws being crosses for any facility to LISTEN to your concerns and make notes to pass to the Dr.

From there - maybe things can move forward with getting some assessments done???

I hope that helps - again, if i am completely off track - I apologize :confused:



If you ever visit the other forums (DX’d and Medications), try searching for poverty of speech and alogia. There are some pretty relevant conversations by those folks with the diagnosis that might be helpful to you. My son has a blunted effect from time to time but can talk until the sun goes down.


“I know each case is different, but how do you know when they are “able” - and just not doing anything, or not able - just not possible due to the illness?”

The way I knew was because my family member was not able to do things they wanted to do, planned to do, hoped to do, liked to do.


Well said…

I agree that this helps to define the difference between CAN and CANNOT.

It’s a troubling subject for parents…how to know when to push and when to not.

Thanks for the clarification.
I’m sure others will benefit.


Its just brilliant and as simple as that, thanks so much Hereandhere


Hello everyone on this thread,
It is interesting to learn about the lack of arm movement. My 26 year old was diagnosed almost five years ago with schizophrenia. Over the years when hes not in meds I’ve observed him being rigid and no arm movement.
For the past few months I find myself looking at his arms when he walks to see if it swings…that helps me determine if he in a sort of happier place in his head then I’m able to talk to him briefly and more than likely I’d get a response.


Hi Cindy ,

My son is 20, has schiz and was diagnosed almost a year ago ,devastating how much he has changed .He had the same symptoms as your son . he has been on Abilify for about 9 months and therapy twice a week (which until now he believes he doesn’t need it but he has to go as he is court ordered) He is getting better , less delays in answering questions , little bit more talkative , socializing a little too but not for long period of times , less paranoid . I hope the Ability will help , i take one day at a time . Hope this post helps .

All the best ,



Our daughter seems to walk like that too. Arms just sort of hang there when walking. She does not appear ridgid - just a noticeable lack of swinging arms. I really just noticed, or was able to identify, the trait about two says ago. I’ve been watching to see if there is a correlation with mood or mental awareness/clarity associated with the “type” of walking.

Thanks for mentioning this, very validating that others have identified the lack of arm motion.