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Types of Thought Disorders

Thought disorders can be sources of considerable distress, both for the people who are directly impacted and for their loved ones. Educating yourself about the various types of thought disorders can help you identify if someone you care about is struggling, so that you can connect them with the treatment that can significantly improve their life.

What Are the Types of Thought Disorders?

Thought disorders are not specific mental health diagnoses. Instead, this term refers to a set of symptoms that can be caused by several different disorders. 

The general characteristics of thought disorders are impairments in a person’s ability to organize their thoughts and communicate effectively with other people. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) uses the terms “disorganized thinking” and “formal thought disorder” to describe this phenomenon.

The mental illnesses whose symptoms include disordered thinking or disrupted communication are sometimes referred to as types of thought disorders. This category can include conditions such as:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorders
  • Brief psychotic disorder
  • Schizophreniform disorder

People may also exhibit symptoms of thought disorders after experiencing a stroke, traumatic brain injury (TBI), or other physical health problems that impact cognition.

Symptoms of Thought Disorders

There is no single symptom that is common to every person who has a thought disorder. The types of thought disorders that we mentioned in the previous section can cause people to struggle in a variety of ways. 

A May 2017 article in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin identified the following as examples of potential symptoms of thought disorders:

  • Poverty of speech (minimal or extremely brief use of words)
  • Poverty of content of speech (empty speech, or using many words to convey little to no actual meaning) 
  • Pressure of speech (speaking extremely rapidly, often without pause)
  • Incoherence (speaking in a manner that makes little to no sense, which is often referred to as “word salad”)
  • Echolalia (repeating words or phrases that were used by others)
  • Paraphasia (using incorrect words or pronouncing words improperly, which can include reversing the syllables of multisyllabic words) 
  • Blocking (sudden disruptions or stoppages in one’s speech, which may appear as stuttering or lost train of thought)
  • Distractible speech (jumping rapidly from topic to topic)
  • Derailment (similar to distractible speech, moving from one topic to another with no logical progression or understandable links between topics)
  • Tangentiality (providing excessive unimportant details without ever establishing a clear point or fully responding to a question)
  • Circumstantiality (similar to tangentiality, providing irrelevant details and information before getting to the point or answering a question)
  • Illogicality (expressing delusional thoughts and/or making faulty or otherwise flawed references)
  • Clanging (using words based on what they sound like – such as including a variety of rhyming words — instead of what meaning they convey)
  • Neologisms (using made-up words or phrases that have no meaning except possibly to the speaker)
  • Word approximations (using words in a nonstandard or otherwise unconventional manner, such as referring to a chair as a “sit down thingy”)
  • Stilted speech (using inappropriately formal words or grammar structures, which often gives an impression of pomposity or condescension) 

Anyone who exhibits symptoms of any types of thought disorders may be in crisis and should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare provider.

Effects of Untreated Thought Disorders

In the absence of effective treatment, people who struggle with various types of thought disorders may have considerable difficulty living a full, productive, and satisfying life. The following are examples of potential negative effects of untreated thought disorders:

  • Academic failure
  • Inability to find employment
  • Being mocked, bullied, or otherwise harassed
  • Being ostracized by peers
  • Increased risk of being abused or victimized
  • Worsening of underlying disorder and/or co-occurring symptoms
  • Withdrawal and isolation

It is important to remember that when we discuss the various types of thought disorders, we are typically referring to symptoms. A person who exhibits the signs that we listed in the previous section may have developed schizophrenia, suffered a brain injury, or be in the midst of a psychotic episode. 

This underscores the importance of seeking immediate professional help. The longer a person struggles with a thought disorder, the greater their risk becomes for worsening overall mental health, which can lead to myriad negative outcomes.   

Treatment Options for The Types of Thought Disorders

Treatment for thought disorders may involve medication and therapy. As is the case with virtually every other mental health concern, there is no single universally effective approach to thought disorder treatment. What’s most important is finding a provider whose services align with the individual’s needs.

At Arbor Wellness, patients who have thought disorders may receive care at one or more of the following levels:

  • Residential treatment
  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP)

Depending on factors such as the scope of the individual’s needs and the level of care they are enrolled in, their treatment may involve elements such as:

  • Medication management services
  • Psychiatric services
  • Individual, group, and family therapy
  • Genetic testing
  • Neurofeedback therapy
  • Case management

Begin Treatment for Thought Disorders in Nashville, TN

If someone that you care about has been exhibiting thought disorder symptoms, please know that help is available. Arbor Wellness is a trusted source of personalized treatment for individuals who have been struggling with schizophrenia, psychosis, thought disorders, and related mental health concerns. 

At our treatment center in Nashville, Tennessee, your loved one will be cared for by a team of skilled and compassionate professionals in a safe and highly supportive environment. To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our admissions page or call us today.