Thought Disorders Therapy

Thought disorders are complex conditions that cause problems with thinking and cognition. Problems with thinking can make life difficult and social interaction almost impossible.
Thinking Disorder
Since thought disorders are a symptom of another condition, the treatment involves identify and treating the underlying condition. A person with a thought disorder may be treated with medications and/or psychotherapy depending on the underlying disorder.

What Is A Thought Disorder?

A thought disorder (TD) is a disturbance in the organization and expression of thought, which causes incoherent, illogical or problematic speech or communication. (TD) is not a specific diagnosis per se, rather it is a term that is used to describe a type of cognitive dysfunction that affects a person’s ability to generate logical speech or writing. A thought disorder, simply put, disrupts a person’s thought process.

Symptoms Of A Thought Disorder

A thought disorder is characterized by disorganized thinking, which manifests itself in bizarre speech and writing. The following are other symptoms of a thought disorder:

  • Neologism – Creating new words
  • Unconventional speech – Using words in very unusual or peculiar ways 
  • Pressured speech – Fast, difficult-to-decipher speech
  • Incoherent speech – Disconnected, rambling speech 
  • Word Salad – Stringing together unrelated words creating gibberish 
  • Distractible speech – Difficulty staying on topic due to nearby distractions or frequent interruptions in one’s train of thought
  • Tangential speech – Replying to questions with speech that is way off-topic or irrelevant
  • Flight of ideas – Switching rapidly between topics during conversations
  • Derailment – Inability to follow a logical train of thought to tell a story. Getting derailed halfway through a speech
  • Circumstantial speech – Using excessively indirect speech that never really comes to a point
  • Poverty of speech – Limited, very vague speech
  • Perseveration – Excessive repetition of words or ideas
  • Usual beliefs – Such as believing that one’s thoughts have been removed

What Causes A Thought Disorder? 

Scientists aren’t sure what causes thought disorders. They believe that it might be caused by problems in the brain that have to do with language. Thought disorders tend to be associated with specific mental health conditions.  

Thought disorders are often found in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, attention deficit disorder (ADHD), and more.

Conditions Associated With Thought Disorder Symptoms

Thought disorder symptoms are usually the result of an underlying condition. The illnesses below are often associated with thought disorders.


Schizophrenia refers to a severe mental disorder that affects how a person feels, thinks and behaves. A person with schizophrenia may experience hallucinations which refers to seeing, hearing or feeling something that is not real. Delusions are also common in schizophrenia. Delusions refer to unshakable beliefs that are not based in reality. In spite of the belief not being grounded in reality, the person believes it to be true. Schizophrenia also involves dysfunctional or unusual ways of thinking.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes severe shifts in moods, thoughts, and behaviors. While bipolar disorder is generally considered to be a mood disorder, thought disorder symptoms can occur if bipolar is severe. A person with bipolar disorder may experience a flight of ideas, especially during manic episodes.

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is one of the most common mental disorders that affect children. This neurodevelopmental disorder is rooted in brain development and affects a person’s ability to stay on task, pay attention and control impulsivity. ADHD often persists into adulthood. People with ADHD may experience thought disorder symptoms, as well. It can be difficult for kids to ADHD to engage in logical conversations at times. Their speech may be tangential and nonsequential. 

Treatment For Thought Disorders

Since thought disorders are a symptom of another condition, the treatment involves identify and treating the underlying condition. A person with a thought disorder may be treated with medications and/or psychotherapy depending on the underlying disorder. Treatment may involve:

  • Medications. Medications are often used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and ADHD. These drugs can help improve thought disorder symptoms. The type of medication used depends on the disorder. Schizophrenia is usually treated with antipsychotic medications like olanzapine (Zyprexa) and aripiprazole (Abilify). Bipolar disorder is also sometimes treated with antipsychotic medications, such as Zyprexa and Abilify. Doctors also sometimes use anti-seizure medications to help stabilize mood in bipolar disorder. ADHD medications include Ritalin (methylphenidate) and similar stimulants. 
  • Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is also very helpful for the treatment of underlying mental illnesses involved in thought disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help a person identify untrue thoughts and learn to replace those with more realistic thoughts. Psychotherapy is most effective for schizophrenia when combined with other treatments, such as medications and social skills training. 

Why Get Help?

Thought disorders affect the way a person thinks. A thought disorder can make it difficult for a person to function in everyday life. They might have a hard time holding down a job, sustaining relationships with others, and expressing their needs. Treatment can help a person with a thought disorder live a healthy, productive life by managing their symptoms. The first step in getting help for a thought disorder is to reach out to a therapist trained in this area. 

Are you a family member of a person with a thought disorder? Oftentimes, family members are the first to reach out to a therapist. Thought disorders affect a person’s perception of reality and so people with thought disorders may not realize that they need help. But, family members know otherwise. If you suspect that your loved one has a thought disorder, don’t be afraid to reach out to a trained professional for help. A therapist can help you identify ways to get your loved one in treatment. 

Post-Pandemic Update 

For some people, infection with COVID-19 led to psychotic episodes. People were complaining of disorganized thoughts and other thought disorder symptoms following infection with coronavirus. Scientists aren’t sure why this occurred. Some reserachers speculate that some people could have exhibited psychiatric symtpoms because of elevated fear and panic, which was pretty common during the pandemic. 

The good news for people who experienced thought disorder symptoms following infection with COVID-19 is that symptoms do not appear to last. Symptoms clear up quickly after the virus goes away. 

What To Look For In A Therapist

While there are a lot of therapists to choose from, finding someone to treat thought disorders takes some effort. Thought disorders are different than other mental illnesses and must be treated differently. It is important to choose a therapist who has experience in treating thought disorders. TherapyTribe can help you find a therapist. You can search therapists both by location and disorders treated. This makes it much easier to find the right therapist for you. 


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