Palilalia: symptoms, causes and treatment

Probably the word Palilalia does not tell you anything, but surely you recognize or have heard of its symptoms: spontaneous and involuntary repetition of syllables, words or phrases.

Palilalia is a language disorder similar to stuttering . This disorder is considered a tic, due to unconscious repetitions and unwillingness to perform them.

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Palilalia: what is it?

Etymologically, the word “Palilalia” comes from the Greek and is broken down into two parts: páli, which means “again” and laló which means “speaks” . Palilalia, which is also called palifrasia, may be associated with pathologies such as Tourette’s syndrome, autism or certain dementias that we will see below.

In this article you will know what exactly palilalia consists of, the most relevant characteristics of palilalia, the most common causes that can cause palilalia, related disorders and finally the treatments and ideas for this affectation.


Palilalia is considered a language impairment that is usually present in children of developing age .

Under this affectation, the children emit syllables, words or phrases in a repetitive way, but they can also emit unintelligible sounds, incomplete words or random words that do not fit with the context of the situation being spoken.

Palilalia is a disorder that can easily be confused with ecolalia . The echolalia is another disorder of the language in which there is also a repetition of syllables, words or phrases, but in this case the repetition is based on the words that have just been pronounced, as an echo, in some cases even emulating pronunciation .

In addition, in the ecolalia the affected person may repeat words he has heard on television, radio, cinema, etc., that is, not necessarily in conversations. These imitated words can be repeated an unlimited number of times, depending on the degree of affectation in question, and that these repetitions can be under situations that require a verbal response (called non-functional echoes), for example, when a child is he asks “how old are you?”, to which the child responds: “you are, you are, you are” …

However, in both cases these repetitions are issued involuntarily, semi-automatically and compulsively.

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One of the reasons why palilalia is triggered may be that, in essence, imitative behavior is a common and adaptive response in children , since they use it to learn and internalize certain data or information in general. However, it is common for this behavior to disappear over time, since these children in question develop other more functional behaviors.

It has been documented that there is a genetic vulnerability to suffer from disorders such as palilalia . This vulnerability means that there is a predisposition to develop the disorder, but it is not a single cause, since other triggers are required to develop palilalia.

These factors would be environmental factors such as stress, anxiety (the repetition of words that the child suffers usually generates great anxiety in the child, generating a vicious circle that does not solve the problem), boredom, frustration, developmental disorders, perinatal disorders, etc. On the other hand, it has been postulated that there are physiological factors that may be associated with palilalia, such as excess dopamine .

In addition, there is a common factor in most of those affected by the palate, which is that they usually have a premonitory sensation before repeating that syllable, word or phrase , and this same sensation works as an unpleasant stimulus, so that when the word is repeated , the person experiences a relief, constituting a reinforcement of the behavior.

  • You may be interested: ” Stuttering (dysphemia): symptoms, types, causes and treatment

Related disorders

There are various disorders that are altering the functioning of language, so they are related to palilalia. Next we will see the disorders that are most commonly associated with palilalia.

1. Tourette syndrome

The Tourette Syndrome is the chronic repetition of motor tics, accompanied by vocal tics . One of the best known symptoms of tourette syndrome is the emission of obscene or morally reprehensible words on impulse. Another of the very similar symptoms is palilalia.

2. Autism spectrum disorders

The autistic spectrum encompasses a number of developmental disorders. These disorders have in common the affectation of communication, behavior, and social interactions . In the autistic spectrum, palilalia disorder may also be present, because there is an alteration of developmental areas such as language.

3. Dementia

Finally, dementia pathologies can be very associated with palilalia. Dementias, which are pathologies where there is neurodegeneration, lead to the loss of cognitive faculties .

When neurodegeneration affects brain regions that are involved in language and self-regulation, language symptoms such as palilalia or ecolalia may occur.


First of all, it must be taken into account that the diagnosis of palalia as a language and psychological disorder occurs when palilalia is considered to deteriorate the quality of life of the person , generating discomfort or suffering in the patient.

The treatment provided then usually varies depending on the degree of involvement of palilalia to the patient’s daily life, taking into account factors such as the periodicity of the symptoms, or the duration of these. So a high frequency and duration of the involuntary repetitions characteristic of palilalia can affect, for example, the patient’s sleep quality.

Obviously there is nothing that makes the repetitions disappear forever, but there are procedures that soften these symptoms , such as behavioral therapies, performed by psychologists specialized in language and / or childhood. These therapies can be accompanied by the help of speech therapists.

In more severe cases, neuroleptic medications can be used if advised by a specialist, in order to prevent symptoms from affecting the quality of life of patients, as we have already mentioned, impacting for example on the quality of sleep.

In any case, the parents or guardians of the children should always be alert in order to avoid stressful situations for the child. In addition, learning relaxation techniques that keep them calm in critical moments of constant repetition is a good recommendation for parents.


by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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