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2021-04-23

Addressing Symptoms (P): Thought Broadcasting

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The most ornate and complex set and manifestations of symptoms exist in the Schizophrenia and related psychosis family of mental health diagnoses. Schizophrenia has both positive and negative symptoms. The symptoms are labeled differently to address and explain the experience of the person symptomatic. To identify which is a negative and which is a positive symptom, differentiate between an added feature to your presentation or an internal sensation or belief at work in your thought process.

Thought broadcasting is therefore a positive symptom in which a person believes his or her own personal thoughts are available to other people seemingly anywhere in the world. It differs between telepathy in that these thoughts are not transmissions per se but a vast web of shared knowledge between the people listening or accessing the information being broadcasted.

I’ve experienced this symptom first hand during my final days in the community before I was hospitalized for full onset of first episode psychosis. This symptom is not so much scary as it is confusing and disorienting to experience. I was driving down a major interstate when I first believed and heard my thoughts were being listened to by friends and family who were hundreds of miles from me in reality. However, when experiencing the symptom first hand, I felt as if my family could personally hear my thoughts immediately and without regard to space or time and the even the beginning of their response to my transmission if my imagination or subconscious really had a choice about things.

In this sense, voices and delusions collide together to make this feature of psychosis even more difficult to experience without breaking from reality. The break is not sharp departure in orientation but noise and interference of thoughts, the addition of these positive symptoms, and the space holding on to these overly complex delusional system takes up in processing information effectively as it occurs. This is why very psychotic people speak slowly and their reaction time is longer because there is so more to process to maintain even basic life functions. So much is happening or not happening in the persons speech and language centers in the brain that the person experiencing the symptom must sort out the overabundance of stimuli in order to stay connected to the world without getting lost in internal preoccupation.

In order to broadcast thoughts, the person transmitting must be listening. Since thought broadcasting is a symptom and not existent under normal circumstances, the person must acknowledge it’s happening as it is happening. Thought patterns which are too involved, and overly complex, are even more diffuse to decipher as real or a symptom of illness. This is why as this symptom progresses, people get more and more lost in internal preoccupation and are unable to come out of their heads per se and spend their time just listening to or even responding to his or her internal thoughts externally or out loud. This is when you typically hear of people responding to their voices. When this happens, it becomes extremely problematic to not attract attention or appear bizarre to to others. Since this also occurs late in the progression of the diagnosis, people experiencing the symptom are usually already in the hospital.

Without experiencing this symptom it is hard to believe it can happen to a person. I thought I had extra powers from a government experiment and needed to use them in order to solve the mysteries already at work from a growing delusional system. In my case I was driving. You may be walking the dog. Just be safe in any event and remember safety is first and foremost the goal when you begin experiencing something so otherworldly, and yet so personal it breaks the very conventions of time, space and communication between people subject to physics and human anatomy.

About the Author

J. Peters

Max Guttman '08, MSW '12, is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in various New York City care systems. He received a 2020 Bearcats of the Last Decade 10 Under 10 award from the Binghamton University Alumni Association.

Guttman treats clients with anxiety and depression, but specializes in issues related to psychosis or schizoaffective spectrum disorders. He frequently writes on his lived experiences with schizophrenia.

"I knew my illness was so complex that I’d need a professional understanding of its treatment to gain any real momentum in recovery," Guttman says. "After undergraduate school and the onset of my illness, I evaluated different graduate programs that could serve as a career and mechanism to guide and direct my self-care. After experiencing the helping hand of my social worker and therapist right after my 'break,' I chose social work education because of its robust skill set and foundation of knowledge I needed to heal and help others."

"In a world of increasing tragedy, we should help people learn from our lived experiences. My experience brings humility, authenticity and candidness to my practice. People genuinely appreciate candidness when it comes to their health and recovery. Humility provides space for mistakes and appraisal of progress. I thank my lived experience for contributing to a more egalitarian therapeutic experience for my clients."

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