Thought Disorder Symptoms

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Thought Disorder Symptoms

Thought Disorder Symptoms

Thought disorders can range from schizophrenia to depression, both of which affect millions of people in the United States. Despite the wave of growing support and mental health awareness for these kinds of conditions, there’s still a lot to learn. Our treatment center in Lake Worth is sharing the different types of thought disorders and common thought disorder symptoms you should know about.


What Is Thought Disorder?

A thought disorder is a disorganized way of thinking that causes abnormal expression of language through speech or writing. The thought disorder definition first appeared in the scientific literature in the 1980s, when it was first mentioned as a symptom of schizophrenia.1 Thought disorder is still considered a symptom of schizophrenia but may be present in other mental disorders like mania and major depressive disorder (depression), as well. Formal thought disorder is a difficult mental illness to diagnose and treat, mainly because many people only occasionally exhibit thought disorder symptoms. Some people may even demonstrate thought disorders when they’re tired.


Severe thought disorders are most prevalent among individuals with mental illnesses, particularly schizophrenia. Without mental health treatment, individuals with this disorder are more likely to display thought disorder symptoms.


Different Types of Thought Disorders and Their Symptoms

There are more than 20 types of thought disorders. Although each type of thought disorder has unique symptoms, disruption in the interconnectivity of ideas in the mind is common in all thinking disorders. Additionally, while it’s common for most people to occasionally display some signs of thought disorder, this condition isn’t officially diagnosed until it negatively impacts a person’s ability to communicate. Below are some of the most common thought disorder examples and their symptoms.



The word “alogia” comes from the Greek word meaning “without speech” and refers to the “poverty of speech” or lack of speech that affects language and makes it difficult to think. An example of alogia may be choosing not to speak because there are voices in your head telling you not to or threatening you if you do. Similarly, a person with alogia may not speak because they feel paranoid, anxious, or nervous around others. Alogia is a common symptom among people with dementia and schizophrenia.



Often people who experience thought blocking thought disorder interrupt themselves mid-sentence. They may pause for a few seconds or even a few minutes to try and recollect their thoughts. When they do start talking again, they often change the conversation. Thought blocking is a common symptom of schizophrenia.


Also known as circumstantial thinking or circumstantial speech, a person with circumstantiality often includes excessive and irrelevant details in their speech or writing. Unlike blocking, they may maintain their natural train of thought but provide a lot of unnecessary details before getting to their point.

Clanging or Clang Association

A person with a clanging thought process chooses their words based on how they sound rather than their meaning. They may rely on the use of rhymes, alliterations, and puns, often causing them to say or write sentences that don’t make any sense. An example of clang association or clanging is, “Here he comes with a bat rat a match.” Clang association or clanging thought process is a common symptom of mania and schizophrenia.



A person with derailment thought disorder (also known as the loosening of association, asyndetic thinking, knight’s move thinking, asyndesis, or entgleisen) talks in chains of only semi-related topics. As they continue talking or writing, their ideas may stray further and further away from the topic. For instance, a person with a derailment thought process might jump from talking about dogs to the hair on their head to your t-shirt. Derailment is a common symptom of schizophrenia.


Distractible Speech

A person with distractible speech thought disorder has trouble maintaining one topic of conversation. They may shift rapidly between topics and become distracted by internal or external stimuli. An example of distractible speech thought disorder is someone abruptly asking you where you got your hat and then switching the subject to a vacation they went on. This is a common symptom of schizophrenia.



People with echolalia thought disorder struggle to communicate and may repeat noises or words they hear instead of expressing their own thoughts. For instance, instead of answering a question, they may repeat it back to the person who asked. In addition to schizophrenia, echolalia is also common among people with autism, Tourette Syndrome, and Fragile X Syndrome.


Individuals who suffer from schizophrenia, depression, and other mental illnesses should receive treatment so they can live a happy and full life. Because thought disorders predominantly target speech, experiencing these symptoms can negatively impact a person’s ability to interact with others. This can make it difficult to create and sustain relationships, exacerbating further problems in the long run. At Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, we offer social skills development therapy, among other mental health services, to assist patients with disorders that impair their sociability. This particular form of treatment can especially benefit individuals who exhibit thought disorder symptoms.


For more information about our mental health programs in Florida, call BHOPB now at 561-220-3981 to be connected with one of our treatment specialists.


  1. NCBI – Rethinking Thought Disorder


Related Readings:

How Depression Affects the Brain

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