Purpose — There is a need to better understand the epidemiological relationship between
language development and psychiatric symptomatology. Language development can be
particularly impacted by social factors, as seen in the developmental choices made for deaf
children which can create language deprivation. A possible mental health syndrome may be
present in deaf patients with severe language deprivation.
Methods — Electronic databases were searched to identify publications focusing on language
development and mental health in the deaf population. Screening of relevant publications
narrowed the search results to 35 publications.
Results — Although there is very limited empirical evidence, there appears to be suggestions of a
mental health syndrome by clinicians working with deaf patients. Possible features include
language dysfluency, fund of knowledge deficits, and disruptions in thinking, mood, and/or
Conclusion — The clinical specialty of deaf mental health appears to be struggling with a
clinically observed phenomenon that has yet to be empirically investigated and defined within the
DSM-5. Descriptions of patients within the clinical setting suggest a language deprivation
syndrome. Language development experiences have an epidemiological relationship with
psychiatric outcomes in deaf people. This requires more empirical attention and has implications
for other populations with behavioral health disparities as well.