Abnormal Thought Processes and Associated Disorders
|Logical and linear but not goal directed
|Impaired attention and memory
|Circumferential or circumstantial
|Talking around a topic, overinclusive; gets to the point eventually
|Repetition of words or phrases; stuck on a theme or idea; difficulty shifting set
|Autism, catatonia, frontal lobe injury
|Flight of ideas
|Generally logical but nonlinear and not goal directed (like the seemingly erratic flight of a bird); often seen with uninterruptible, “pressured” speech
|Loosening of associations
|Statements are not logically connected to each other; the listener has to “connect the dots”
|The logical link between trains of thought is suddenly and completely disconnected
|A sudden prolonged pause as though the thought was blocked perhaps by some other internal stimuli
|Excessive alliteration or rhyming; words are linked by sounds rather than meaning
|Psychotic disorders, Tourette syndrome
Abnormal thought processes are patterns of thinking that deviate from typical or normative patterns. They are often associated with various psychiatric and neurological disorders.
Some common abnormal thought processes and the disorders they are associated with include:
- Delusions: Delusions are fixed, false beliefs that are not based on reality and are resistant to reasoning or evidence. They can be seen in disorders such as schizophrenia, delusional disorder, and sometimes in severe cases of bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder with psychotic features.
- Hallucinations: Hallucinations are perceptual experiences in the absence of external stimuli. They can involve seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, or tasting things that are not present. Hallucinations are characteristic of schizophrenia, but they can also occur in other conditions, including substance-induced psychotic disorder and certain neurological conditions.
- Thought Broadcasting: This is a belief that one’s thoughts are being broadcasted to others, making them feel exposed or vulnerable. It is a common type of delusion seen in schizophrenia.
- Thought Insertion: The belief that external forces or entities are inserting thoughts into one’s mind. This is another type of delusion commonly associated with schizophrenia.
- Thought Withdrawal: The belief that one’s thoughts are being taken away or removed by an external force. This is yet another type of delusion observed in schizophrenia.
- Thought Disorder: Thought disorder refers to disorganized or incoherent thinking that may make communication difficult. It is a prominent feature of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.
- Flight of Ideas: Flight of ideas is a symptom characterized by rapid, continuous, and often incoherent speech with frequent changes of topic. It is commonly seen in manic episodes of bipolar disorder.
- Loosening of Associations: Loosening of associations refers to a thought process where there is a lack of logical connection between ideas, leading to fragmented or tangential speech. It is a common feature of schizophrenia.
- Word Salad: Word salad is a severe form of disorganized speech where words and phrases are randomly strung together, lacking any coherent meaning. It is often seen in severe cases of schizophrenia.
- Circumstantial Thinking: Circumstantial thinking involves providing excessive details and unnecessary information while communicating, making it challenging to get to the point. It can be seen in conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder and some neurological conditions.
It is essential to recognize these abnormal thought processes as they can indicate the presence of underlying psychiatric or neurological disorders. Early recognition and appropriate treatment are vital for managing these conditions and improving the individual’s quality of life. A comprehensive assessment by a qualified mental health professional is crucial for accurate diagnosis and appropriate intervention.
Tangential Thought Process
Tangential thought process, also known as tangentiality, is a term used in psychiatry to describe a pattern of thinking characterized by moving from one topic to another, often in a non-linear or disjointed manner. Individuals with tangential thought process may have difficulty maintaining a coherent or focused train of thought, leading to a deviation from the main topic or an inability to answer questions directly.
Tangential thought process can occur in various psychiatric conditions, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and certain types of personality disorders. It is often associated with cognitive impairments, disorganized thinking, or disturbances in the flow of thought.
Here are some key features of tangential thought process:
- Loss of Focus: The individual may have difficulty maintaining focus or staying on track with a particular topic or conversation.
- Digressions: Tangential thought process often involves frequent digressions, where the person veers off into unrelated or peripheral topics, sometimes completely losing sight of the original discussion.
- Lack of Goal Orientation: There is a diminished sense of goal-directedness or purpose in communication, with a tendency to wander off into tangents that may not contribute to the main point.
- Difficulty Answering Direct Questions: Individuals with tangential thought process may have trouble providing concise or direct answers to questions. Instead, their responses may be circuitous or include irrelevant information.
It’s important to note that tangential thought process should be assessed in the context of an individual’s overall mental health and functioning. A thorough psychiatric evaluation by a qualified mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, is necessary to determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment or interventions.
Treatment for tangential thought process typically focuses on addressing the underlying psychiatric condition, such as medication management, psychotherapy, and supportive interventions to improve cognitive functioning and communication skills. The specific treatment approach will depend on the individual’s diagnosis, symptoms, and individual needs.
Although regarded as a hallmark of schizophrenia, thought disorder (a normal developmental phenomenon in young children) is also found in pediatric neurobehavioral disorders including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), high functioning autism, complex partial seizures (CPS), and childhood absence epilepsy (CAE).
Thought disorders may present with abnormal content of thinking, abnormal process of thinking, or a combination.
The presence of hallucinations can be inferred either from the patient’s report of hallucinations or from observed behavior suggesting a response to a hallucinated voice or other sensory experience.
Thought disorder represents abnormal organization, control, and processing of thinking; improper use of semantic and relational aspects of speech; and poor use of linguistic context to process and produce speech.
Similarly, delusions may be expressed either in words or in actions based on the delusions.
Abnormal thinking can manifest in milder forms with symptoms that suggest but do not confirm the presence of a thought disorder.
Paranoid thinking often accompanies thought disorder, but it can occur in the presence of otherwise normal thought processes.
Tangential Thought Process is characterised by the tendency to speak about topics unrelated to the main topic of discussion.
While most people engage in tangentiality from time to time, constant and extreme tangentiality may indicate an underlying mental health condition, particularly schizophrenia.
People experiencing mental health conditions may be so focused on their own internal dialogue that they are unable to focus on conversation or questions; in some cases, their internal dialogues may prevent them from understanding the conversation.
Thought disorders involves impairment in the form or manner in which a speaker presents thoughts to a listener and is characterized by clinical signs such as illogical thinking, loose associations, incoherence, poverty of content of speech, tangentiality, circumstantiality, and others.
Circumferential or circumstantial Thought Process
Circumstantial thought process is a term used in psychology and psychiatry to describe a pattern of thinking characterized by excessive and unnecessary detail or digression when communicating or conveying thoughts. It is considered a communication style where an individual includes extensive, tangential information that may not be directly relevant to the main point of the conversation or train of thought.
Circumstantial thought process can be observed in various conditions, such as certain personality disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders like autism spectrum disorder, and during manic or hypomanic episodes in bipolar disorder. It can also be a result of anxiety, stress, or other cognitive processing difficulties.
Circumstantiality is defined as circuitous and non-direct thinking or speech that digresses from the main point of a conversation.
An individual that displays this characteristic includes unnecessary and insignificant information which, although sometimes relevant, distracts from the central theme or main point of a conversation.
The over-inclusion of this extraneous information can make it difficult to both follow the speaker’s train of thought or arrive at a meaningful answer to a question.
Eliciting information in clinical situations from circumstantial patients may be difficult and time-consuming.
The phrase “circumstantial thought process” refers to a way of thinking that involves going into undue detail or straying from the main idea when speaking or expressing ideas. It is regarded as a communication style in which a person provides a lot of side information that isn’t always immediately related to the conversation’s or idea’s core idea.
A variety of diseases, including several personality disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders like autism spectrum disorder, and manic or hypomanic episodes in bipolar disorder, can be linked to circumstantial thought processes. Anxiety, stress, or other problems with cognitive processing may potentially be the cause.
It is important to note that circumstantial thought process differs from other thought disturbances such as tangential thinking (where the individual never returns to the main point) or loose associations (where the connection between thoughts is illogical or disconnected).
Understanding circumstantial thought process can help improve communication and comprehension in individuals who exhibit this pattern. Active listening, gentle redirection, and providing structure during conversations can be helpful strategies when engaging with someone who tends to think circumstantially. If circumstantial thinking becomes significantly impairing or distressing, it is advisable to seek professional evaluation and guidance from a mental health professional.
Here are some key features of circumstantial thought process:
- Excessive detail: Individuals with circumstantial thought process tend to provide excessive and unnecessary details when describing or explaining something. They may include numerous examples, anecdotes, or irrelevant information that may make it difficult to follow their main point.
- Digression: There is a tendency to go off on tangents or engage in unrelated discussions, often losing track of the original topic or question. They may provide detours in their conversation, veering away from the central point before eventually returning to it.
- Over-inclusive thinking: Circumstantial thinkers have difficulty filtering or prioritizing information. They may have a strong need to include every relevant detail they can think of, even if it is not directly pertinent to the topic.
- Intact coherence: Despite the excessive details and digressions, the overall coherence of their thoughts and speech remains intact. Eventually, they circle back to the main point or answer the initial question, but with a meandering path.