Thought Broadcasting: Can Others Read Your Mind?

Thought broadcasting is a disorder experienced by people with schizophrenia. This belief that others can read their mind and know what they're feeling is a common characteristic of this condition, which leads to much distress.
Thought Broadcasting: Can Others Read Your Mind?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Thought broadcasting is a disorder and a common symptom in people with schizophrenia. It’s when a person with this condition thinks that others can read their minds. They experience it in a rather disturbing and desperate way. It’s as if the entire world could suddenly hijack their inner being.

Thought disorders occur in those with bad cases of schizophrenia. This difficulty to reason in a clear, logical, and flexible way is usually absent in most of these patients.

To understand it better, imagine for a moment that the human mind is a puzzle in which each piece fits perfectly. In a person with schizophrenia, that puzzle is sort of blown apart and every piece is out of order and out of place.

As you can imagine, thinking logically is impossible for them. Thus, they collapse and become incoherent, even delirious. In fact, they can’t even articulate the chaos of their internal universe.

“Schizophrenia can’t be understood without understanding despair.”

-R.D. Laing-

A head in the clouds.

What’s thought broadcasting?

As we mentioned above, this is a recurrent disorder in patients with schizophrenia or other serious mental health problems. It’s common for a person with this disturbance to say things like, “I don’t need to talk to you because you already know what I’m thinking. Everyone can see what goes on in my mind”.

This phenomenon is part of what psychology refers to as thinking process abnormalities. The person feels like their internal world is completely beyond their control in these highly distressing situations. Having no control over yourself must be one of the most disturbing experiences a person can feel, hence the harshness of this disease.

Also, people with schizophrenia show many more alterations in addition to this characteristic. They may experience hallucinations, language disturbances, cognitive problems, and disorganized behavior.

Not only might they hear voices, but they may also struggle daily with chaotic thinking and the idea that the entire world is against them.

In addition, thought irradiation is one of the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. These include delusions and all thought disturbances in addition to hallucinations. Negative symptoms, on the other hand, include everything from behavioral problems to psychophysical symptoms (muffled voice, lack of expressiveness, apathy, etc.).

The origin of thought broadcasting

In order to speak of the origin of thought broadcasting, we must delve into the cause of schizophrenia. Currently, this chronic and disabling brain disease is almost always explained from a neurological and biological standpoint. Biochemical alterations in the dopamine, GABA, and glutamate systems and in the NMDA and nicotinic receptors are quite evident.

Moreover, research such as that conducted at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore points out that structural and functional brain imaging tests reveal several abnormalities.

One of them is the disconnection of several specific brain circuits. In fact, it seems to cause disorganized thinking, delusions, hearing voices, emotional disturbances, and a persistent need to withdraw and avoid social contact.

According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 21 million people worldwide have schizophrenia. Its prevalence is high and it usually manifests in young people.

Other thinking disorders in schizophrenia

A person with schizophrenia won’t only lament how others can seemingly read their mind (thought broadcasting). They’ll also grieve about how someone has planted ideas in their mind that “aren’t theirs”.

Moreover, they may even believe that everything they remember, think, feel, dream, or desire flee from their mind like smoke emerging from a fire.

All of these comprise the disorders of the experience of the self, a rather striking set of psychopathological conditions.

Thought theft

The person believes some external force is entering their head in order to steal their ideas.

Thought insertion

This is when the patient thinks that some entity (aliens, computers, or invisible enemies) have kidnapped them to introduce ideas that aren’t theirs.

Thought broadcasting

The patient has the conviction that everything they think is diffused around them and that, no matter how hard they try, every single one of their thoughts flies away wherever they go.

In addition, the striking thing about it is that they often declare how their own voice reverberates in their minds. They claim that they can perceive how it escapes them. Auditory hallucinations are also a common symptom of schizophrenia.

A woman experiencing thought broadcasting.

The treatment of thought broadcasting and other disturbances

No valid treatment can cure this disease. The way to address thought broadcasting, along with the delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized behaviors, always involves managing the symptoms and ensuring a patient’s quality of life. Two approaches are currently used for this purpose: psychotherapy and drugs.

Typical or atypical antipsychotics are common treatments. The former treats positive symptoms and the latter can reduce both positive and negative symptomatology, such as psychiatric manifestations and those related to social withdrawal and emotional disturbances, among others.

Likewise, as far as psychological therapy applied to schizophrenia is concerned, approaches aimed at the psycho-emotional well-being of patients are always useful. Learning how to solve problems and improve attention or communication are always successful resources.

The most important thing in all cases is to try to be supportive so that the patient doesn’t quit treatment. These realities are harsh and deeply impact both the patient and their environment.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Coffey, Michael. (1998). Schizophrenia: A review of current research and thinking. Journal of clinical nursing. 7. 489-98. 10.1046/j.1365-2702.1998.00204.x.
  • Sanchez Gomez, Pedro & Ruiz-Parra, Eduardo & I, Eguiluz. (2004). Trastornos del contenido del pensamiento.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.