I can’t find the words fast enough

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Hi,
I’m not sure if my problem is a psychiatric issue or even if it is a issue at all. I searched the internet looking for slow thought processes but I couldn’t find anything that resembled my situation; I’m probably not explaining it correctly, either. Well here goes, it takes me longer than normal people to think and speak. Well not really think in general, I’m always thinking it’s more like I know what I want to say but it takes me longer to search for the words to say it with, unless I’ve rehearsed the conversation in my head beforehand. For example, if I’m sick and I’m going to the doctor’s office. I have to rehearse my answers to the questions I think he is going to ask me in order to respond in a timely matter. It is very weird, although I had this problem for as long as I could remember it affects me the most in school.
I had a class where the instructor requested all students to say something productive in each class to receive daily participation points. Nevertheless, I had to drop the course because I was failing. He told us we couldn’t pass without those participation points. Normally when the class was over, I thought of something to say and which words to say it with obviously it was too late. Usually, I’m angry at myself than. Written assignments I excel on even when I was younger, I was always above my peers when I had to write a paper or take a test, I don’t have any problems learning anything.
This problem of mind isn’t getting worse it’s just becoming more complicated to cope with as I progress through different stages in life. Interviews are the most difficult situations, so much that I’m terrified, they are much difficult to rehearse because interviewers are all different.
I feel stupid even though people tell me I am smart. They don’t understand this problem I have and it’s hard work trying to rehearse every conversation I think I may have. I spend countless hours rehearsing conversation that I may have. Therefore, when people ask me something I’m not like “uh, uh” or sound like a 2nd grader trying to answer it. If my problem sounds like something you have ever come across please point me in the right direction to receive help. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

A: This must be very frustrating indeed. It must feel like you are operating on a different speed than those around you. If only there were a button to push that would either speed you up or slow them down! From what you said, I don’t think the problem is rooted in anxiety. Rather, it sounds to me like you may have a processing disorder. In your case the problem is processing speed. You are clearly intelligent. Given time, you know what you want to say and how you want to say it. But you struggle to produce at the rate that others generally expect in verbal interactions.

I suggest that you obtain an evaluation by a learning disabilities specialist to determine if processing speed is the problem. If it is, there are workarounds that you can learn to help you manage situations like interviews. In school, you would be entitled to what’s called “reasonable accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you had documentation of your disability, the professor would have had to work with you to find a way for you to get those participation points, perhaps by coming to class with a prepared statement, for example.

Learning disabilities are probably more common than you think. By learning how to manage yourself and by finding the right kinds of supports, you can reach your full potential. Millions of people do.

Please follow through and get that assessment. I’d hate to have you miss out on other interesting courses or potential jobs when learning some new tools could help you be successful.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 Jun 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). I can’t find the words fast enough. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/06/04/i-cant-find-the-words-fast-enough/

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