What Is Thought Broadcasting?

Woman holding her head in distress

PeopleImages / Getty Images

Thought broadcasting is a condition that causes a person to believe that their thoughts can be heard or known by people around them. Some people believe that their thoughts are being broadcasted by the television, radio, or the internet and in some cases might avoid interacting with these mediums. 

Thought broadcasting is usually a symptom of a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Symptoms 

Thought broadcasting is primarily characterized by an unshakeable feeling that people around you can hear your innermost thoughts. In most cases, people who experience this phenomenon are in a constant state of distress because they think that people can hear their thoughts.

For example, imagine you are waiting in line for a coffee and a person cuts the line. You might think to yourself that this was impolite and perhaps call the person a rude word in your mind. A person dealing with thought broadcasting will be plagued with the thought that everyone on the line had heard the rude word they had only thought about. They might even become so overwhelmed by this belief and leave the coffee shop.

Thought broadcasting occurs in different ways for different people. For some people, they might hear their thoughts being spoken aloud, when they are not actually saying them out loud.

Others might feel like their thoughts are silently escaping them and as a result, might be heard by the people around them. Some people with this condition might even think that people around them can somehow read or participate in their thoughts.

Other people with this condition have also reported trying to communicate with their thoughts or sending telepathic prompts to other people with their minds. When they get no response it might sometimes cause feelings of frustration, anger, and sadness. 

People with thought broadcasting also tend to become socially withdrawn for fear of being ostracized by the people around them because of their thoughts. They may isolate themselves to prevent others from hearing these thoughts. 

Diagnosis 

Thought broadcasting is usually indicative of an underlying psychotic condition. It may be difficult to diagnose as people who experience thought broadcasting often have a difficult time talking about it. They often fear that they might be ridiculed or mocked because of the condition. 

As it is one of the symptoms of medical conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, thought broadcasting might occur with other common symptoms of these conditions, such as:

Causes

Thought broadcasting is typically a symptom of a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. 

Schizophrenia 

Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that alters a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Distorted Sense of Reality

People with schizophrenia have an altered perception of reality. A person with this condition will find it difficult to distinguish between what is real and what isn’t real.

Symptoms of schizophrenia could either be positive or negative:

  • Positive: When a person experiences a feeling or behavior they don’t typically experience such as hallucinations and delusions.
  • Negative: When a person with the condition, loses a feeling or ability they once had such an absence of motivation or emotion.

Thought broadcasting is classified as a positive symptom of schizophrenia, as a person won’t typically think that their thoughts can be heard by the people around them.

Schizophrenia is characterized by delusions, or fixed false beliefs, and thought broadcasting is one of these delusions. People who experience this symptom of the condition believe that their thoughts are being broadcast to the public by forces that are outside of their control

Bipolar Disorder 

Bipolar disorder is a condition that causes extreme changes in your mood. A person with this condition will experience a range of moods from manic to depressed.

Delusions can be part of mania or severe depression in bipolar disorder. A delusion is a belief in the reality of a thing despite evidence to the contrary. Thought broadcasting is classified as a delusion.

Consequences of Thought Broadcasting 

Thought broadcasting can be a debilitating symptom that affects people living with it in many ways. Some ripple effects people with this condition often experience in addition to symptoms of thought broadcasting include:

  • Avoiding social interactions because you think people can hear your thoughts 
  • Communicating less because you think people can already read your thoughts
  • Anxious distress
  • Being unable to function properly in public spaces

Treatment 

A combination of psychotherapy and medication has proven to be the most effective course of treatment for thought broadcasting.

Medication

Antipsychotic medications are the primary treatment for thought broadcasting. They may include some of the relatively newer second generation atypical psychotics like Ablify and Clozaril, or older typical antipsychotics like Haldol. These agents are used to treat the underlying psychiatric conditions that cause thought broadcasting. These medications can help to stop or reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms of thought broadcasting.  

Psychotherapy

At its worst, thought broadcasting could be a debilitating condition that interferes with a person’s regular functioning. Psychotherapy aims to help a person living with thought broadcasting to understand their symptoms, become better able to reality test them, manage stress, and form healthy habits that can help them manage their symptoms.

Coping 

Certain behaviors can potentially worsen thought broadcasting, including alcohol and substance use. Maintaining healthy habits and avoiding alcohol can help you manage the condition better. Thought broadcasting can be incredibly difficult to live with and cause other complications in addition to the condition responsible for the psychosis symptom.

People who are living with thought broadcasting are often reluctant to disclose what they are experiencing. If you live with a person who is showing symptoms of this condition, try to have an open conversation with them. Let them know you understand and that you are there for them and advise them to seek medical help.

Social isolation is one of the most common consequences of living with thought broadcasting. You can help someone you know who is living with this condition overcome their fear of social interaction by reaching out and letting them know they are not alone.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cedar Clinic. Symptoms of Psychosis.

  2. Sasaki JPD, Wada K, Tanno Y. Understanding egorrhea from cultural-clinical psychology. Front Psychol. 2013;4.

  3. Pawar AV, Spence SA. Defining thought broadcast. Semi-structured literature reviewBr J Psychiatry. 2003;183:287-291. doi:10.1192/bjp.183.4.287

  4. Harvard Health Publishing. Bipolar disorder(Manic depressive illness or manic depression). Published March 2019.

  5. Joseph SM, Siddiqui W. Delusional disorder. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2020.

Additional Reading