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Thought Disorder

Hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions. Self-destructive behaviors. Social isolation. Deep depressions or periods of arrogant irritability. These are just a few of the symptoms of a thought disorder, which includes schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, and psychosis. A thought disorder is a complicated condition that can cause an individual to lose touch with reality and experience bizarre thinking, seeing things that are not there, and mood swings.

Considered a thought disorder, a schizoaffective disorder is characterized by symptoms of schizophrenia primarily. The exact cause of schizoaffective disorder is not known; however, it is thought to be triggered by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Individuals with schizoaffective disorder often require a combination of medications to treat the condition. It can be debilitating and more than one-third of individuals with schizoaffective disorder will attempt suicide during their lifetimes.

Schizoaffective disorder affects about .3 percent of the population, with schizophrenia affecting one percent of Americans.  Individuals with schizoaffective disorder will experience hallucinations, delusions, and extreme feelings of paranoia. They may feel that people are plotting against them or that characters on television are controlling their thoughts. Left untreated, the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder will worsen over time, and the individual may not be able to function in a job or at home. Substance abuse or dependencies are a common complication of schizoaffective illness.

Because people with schizoaffective disorder can be initially misdiagnosed due to the complexity of their symptoms, it’s important to seek help from a trained professional who can accurately diagnose the problems and prescribe the right course of treatment.

Below is a list of some of the common symptoms of a thought disorder:

Signs and Symptoms of Thought Disorders

  • Visual/Auditory hallucinations
  • Incoherence
  • Disorders of movement
  • Diminished interaction with others
  • Monotonous voice
  • Low energy
  • Increased energy
  • Restlessness
  • Poor judgment/insight
  • Increased/decreased sex drive
  • Euphoria
  • Grandiose thinking
  • Inappropriate humor
  • Extreme irritability
  • Disjointed thinking
  • Paranoia
  • Reckless behavior
  • Hopelessness
  • Delusions
  • Emotional flatness
  • Staring into space
  • Paranoia
  • Lack of facial expressiveness
  • Social isolation
  • Unusual motor behavior (rocking, pacing)
  • Racing thoughts
  • Rapid speech
  • Poor concentration
  • Increased use of drugs and alcohol
  • Over-intellectual thinking
  • Inappropriate guilt
  • Extreme religious actions
  • Depression
  • Feeling worthless

A thought disorder presents itself differently in each person.  Symptoms of a thought disorder are not constant, but consistent.   Schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, and psychosis can be successfully managed. The treatment must be individualized considering the person’s history, motivation and response to suggestions. It is usually treated with a combination of the following approaches:

  • Supportive and reality based therapy to change perceptual distortions and delusional thoughts.
  • Cognitive Therapy to change unproductive thinking patterns by sorting out unrealistic thoughts.
  • Family Therapy to help families understand and deal with stressors associated with psychotic disorders.
  • Group therapy to gain new insight from others who have had similar experiences.
  • Relaxation Techniques to relieve stress and to diminish the physical symptoms of anxiety.
  • Medication to address prominent symptoms like mood instability, depression or psychotic distortions.

If you suspect that you or a loved one may have a thought disorder, please contact a professional mental health provider for diagnosis and treatment.