Mental Health Blogs

Bipolar Disorder Thought Types

Recently a doctor stopped by my blog and asked about types of thoughts people with bipolar disorder have. Specifically, he was asking about “crowded” thoughts. Crowded thoughts are likened to “too many people jammed into this office.” Crowded thoughts constitute the experience of having too many thoughts at one time.

So it got me to thinking, what are the types of thoughts and what types of thoughts are typical for bipolar disorder.

What is a Thought?

A thought is a “product of mental activity,” or an idea.

OK. So what’s a “normal” thought?

In my mind your average ideas are like someone whispering in your ear. You know, “I like carrots,” or, “why does nail polish flake so easily?” or, “I really should do laundry.”

They are just random ideas that pop out of nowhere in particular. They may lead to other thoughts about maple-glazed carrots, manicures and Tide, or perhaps not. Either way, no big deal.

42-17157704Bipolar Disorder Thought

But your average thoughts can be controlled to some extent. You can have the thought, look at it and decide what to do with it. Most thoughts get thrown out as soon as we have them. For example, thinking about carrots on the way to work isn’t very helpful so that errant thought gets thrown out with the traffic report on the fives.

Bipolar thoughts are not so much like that. Someone doesn’t whisper bipolar thoughts nor are they typically easy to shed. No, bipolar thoughts are like being yelled at.

Loud Thoughts

This brings me to the idea of loud thoughts. Rather than the thought being a whisper it is a yell. It is a thought being screamed at you so loudly that it bounces around on the inside of your cranium. These are thoughts that are impossible to ignore and just come right back if you try to put them away. They aren’t necessarily crazy or disturbing thoughts, just ones that are yelled at you louder than you can bear. And loud thoughts tend to be repetitive.

(This is similar to the concept of intrusive thoughts, a technical term, but intrusive thoughts are involuntary and unpleasant.)

(Neither “loud” nor “crowded” thoughts are technical terms, just useful ones.)

Racing Thoughts in Mania/Hypomania

Racing thoughts, as they sound, are fast thoughts. So fast, in fact, you can’t keep up with them. Before one thought is done another appears. And they often have no relation to each other except in a crazy world of rapid thoughts were logical leaps are flying ones from one pinpoint to another in vastly different spaces. Often the mouth is a slave to the speed of the thoughts and others tend to have no idea what you’re talking about.

Racing thoughts are, of course, standard to bipolar mania or hypomania and a fairly common experience for people with bipolar. Racing thoughts are not, de facto, disturbing and might even be creative or useful.

(And none of this speaks to delusional thoughts which are a whole other beastie.)

Thought about Thought

All these thoughts made me realize, some of the thought types I have always had, like loud thoughts, are probably just the product of bipolar disorder. I’ve always wondered why sometimes one exchange of words can beat at the back of my brain with great insistence, noise and repetition. And it’s probably just the crazy acting up. I find it causes extreme anxiety when there’s a thought that refuses to quiet itself and it’s somehow relieving to know it isn’t just me; it’s really just the bipolar.

And crowded thoughts themselves are an interesting notion and something I’ve experienced many times. “Get all of these people out of my office,” is just about right.

Have you had interesting thought patterns that are perhaps related to a mental disorder?

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

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23 Responses to Bipolar Disorder Thought Types

  1. MaryAnn says:

    My bi polar thoughts makes it hard for me to read. Always an avid reader, when my bi polar disorder took hold, the racing, tumbling thoughts of hypomania makes it difficult for me to follow a story line. Twitter and blog posts are about the most I can decipher now. My ability to focus, to concentrate has

  2. MaryAnn says:

    oops My ability to focus, to concentrate has been co-opted by crowded thoughts. It’s frustrating as all get out because I love to read. One more reason to hate this disorder.

  3. Xekora says:

    For me, it’s really weird because I’ll have the racing thoughts which I will then expound and it seems like such an amazing thing because I’m talking so rapidly and I think I’m getting my point across really quickly which gives me more time, but ultimately the people I’m talking to just look confused even though I feel like I know that everything I said was absolute genius, they tend to disagree with that notion with their unpleasant faces sometimes it just gets me so mad because I feel like no one is actually listening to me because if they were I think they would understand what I was trying to say but maybe I’m wrong I guess I could be every now and then I know I’m not perfect but I can’t stand how my sister has become so damn religious even though she says she isn’t that she just believes in a higher power but that’s a bunch of crap because she’s so damn preachy and like forces her propaganda on everyone and it’s all because of her best friend which suggests to me that she is a follower which I guess she’s always been but not to this extent it’s really weird when people join cults not saying she’s in a cult but she might as well be the way she talks I mean really Christian radio isn’t going to make you a better person and she keeps her kids from me because she doesn’t want me influencing them really how f’d up is that and then there’s like a mass suicide but I’m not on any medication because I feel like the last time I took it I was a freaking zombie and I couldn’t even get life insurance because I’m supposedly high risk which really sucks because I could die any day and I have a son so then where will they bury me even though I don’t want to be buried but they never listen to me anyway and then how would they bury me which doesn’t even matter because I don’t want to be buried I’d rather be cremated but how will they pay for my cremation and funeral I hate insurance companies all they care about is making money why is it so important I can’t die and I’ve always wanted to go to the Galapagos islands where Darwin came up with his evolutionary theory I love iguanas even though the last one I had used to whip me with his tail which hurt and everyone thought I was responsible for the wounds myself on purpose which I often did but I wouldn’t whip myself seriously where would I find a whip and I’m not Jesus although sometimes I think that I was one of the better creations and I have a special purpose I know I’m like this really rare type of human with special gifts and I can do anything if people would just allow me into their lives I know I would change them for the better I’m always doing everything for everyone and it’s difficult to carry so much of that burden my time here is warranted I guess there are whips in adult stores but that’s just crazy I really don’t need to sleep and I still feel amazing like I had all of the recommended eight hours or whatever many hours they say we humans need to survive I heard that when you stay up for so long that every time you blink you’re actually sleeping I don’t know why, but there are times when all of these rapid fire thoughts are so overwhelming that I’ll actually literally go deaf for like some time, I don’t even know some days are longer than others have you ever heard of this? and it’s because there is so much pressure in my head from all the damn thoughts that I become anxious and want it to stop that I build all this pressure in my ears where I can literally hear my heart beating on the inside if that makes any sense which I guess it should because all hearts are on the inside, except for people who are born with their hearts on the outside in which case they need surgery to put in back on the inside unless of course they die in which case surgery isn’t necessary in fact all of your organs are except for like the largest one, but I guess that really doesn’t matter what I’m trying to say here is that I’m deaf right now which is nice because I don’t have to listen to peoples criticism of me why can’t people just be nice and not treat me like such a crazy person who often think I’m weird because they used to call me psycho in high school I always try to explain things to people but they don’t care to hear anything I have to say and even if they did I don’t think they’d understand there are so many people out there who don’t have an education learning is awesome I read all the time I wish that I can be in school forever I love to read for some reason I keep thinking of a red balloon maybe because I was playing with a balloon earlier with my son that was yellow with another balloon on the inside of that one which was orange it makes me think of fire and then there’s hell my grandfather recently passed away and I don’t think he ever loved me which makes me really sad I always think if people actually took the time to get to know me which I’m realizing as I’m typing how much this sounds cliché they would really love me because I’m amazing and I can do anything in the world I’ve always wanted to sky dive, I think I saw a picture of you doing it and it looks amazing and like a whole lot of fun my lifespan is shortened anyway with my disease so they say so why not go out with a bang if it must happen prematurely and I like shooting guns but I can never have one because I have a baby even if I got a case that only reads fingerprints because my pointer finger on my right hand has a really huge fingerprint altering scar form when I threw the bottle and gripped it so hard it broke in my hand cutting me deeply and it wouldn’t stop bleeding I guess it didn’t help that I was drunk because alcohol thins your blood and its bright red which is weird because when I was pregnant with him I seemed to be “normal” god I really hate that word what the hell does it even mean is anyone “normal?” I want to buy a gun for protection I used to want to be a police officer and I could be but I also love flying which makes me want to be a pilot but I’m going to school to become a doctor I change my mind a lot which makes it extremely difficult to get anything done I guess it doesn’t matter I don’t have any friends I kind of wish I did I always used to say I didn’t need anyone in my life but as I got older I noticed how lonely I am and I’m a freaking fantastic human being like of another kind awesome I have amazing ideas and I get things done and if I just put it to use I’d be a damn multi-millionaire I used to work for the math and English dept. at my local college and they all loved me and praised my work up until the point where I went MIA for a month came back for two weeks and then became depressed and resigned which I hate to this day because that was one of the most if not the most amazing job I ever had. I suppose I made the mistake of mentioning my condition which I suppose led to them treating me differently and treading lightly which I despised and drove me nuts, nuts enough to lose it on my supervisor who always came in late but the moment it happened to me I was crucified for it people are so scandalous and deceitful a bunch of backstabbers and two-faced liars. I could never keep a job for very long eventually the crazy just comes out like here I am everybody the circus is back in town and everyone just stays away because they’re afraid they might catch my non contagious disease I mean come on really ? Yeah I might do something which is just so offensive idiots bipolar disorder isn’t freaking contagious people read about it and then maybe you’ll get it but no one cares enough to do it’s just easier to outcast you and become the black sheep they don’t take it for what it’s worth they look at me like I’m a serial killer and I’ve never hurt anyone but myself I’m amazing that way. I have insomnia and I just think too much I want it to stop so I can finally sleep even though I don’t feel tired right now I’m just really productive I love it. My boyfriend is such an ass I don’t know what to do about him because I love him but I think I feel more sorry for him than loving him He knows about my disease he’s been with me for 8 long years and he’s only 24 I guess that’s kind of amazing considering he’s witnessed my wrath which can get downright terrifying and he’s still here, but lately he’s just become this mean evil jerk but maybe I can’t blame him and maybe he finally broke and I wouldn’t blame him sometimes I don’t even want to be around me hence the suicide attempts I wish I had better eyes contacts bother me, so do glasses I’m hungry I need to lose my baby weight pills make you gain weight I don’t want to be fat damn you unfair society we can’t all be anorexic stick figure models and we can’t all be Marilyn Monroe although I want to go back to being blonde I don’t know what to do I just keep going and writing and its like it never wants to stop I have to stop I hate my thoughts getting off computer now. :/

  4. Pamela Gold says:

    My thoughts come so fast it often upsets my stomach. This is a wonderful post. I’m going to pass this along to my husband to read.

  5. Gigi Marsten says:

    Xekora, Are you putting us on? You write just like you think and probably talk fast too! There is no punctuation whatsoever throughout your diatribe… just your thoughts tumbling out.. and so long too! Wow! You should read your post again and see what you think! And, how you think.

    You definitely should be on medication. I’m exhausted just reading that. Take care.

  6. Hi Pamela,

    I’m sorry to hear that but I can understand an upset stomach when the thoughts come so fast.

    I hope the article helps.

    - Natasha

  7. Hi MaryAnn,

    I can understand that frustration. I have to pick and choose my reading times carefully as there are many times when I can’t concentrate as well. But I’ve found that is something is truly engrossing that helps. But I am very fussy about what meets that description.

    - Natasha

  8. Meriel says:

    I think we may need to add repetitive thoughts. You know, those really useless snippets of conversations, often just phrases, that seem to keep popping up in your bipolar mind over and over again. I have times when I just think the same three words repetitively for days, sometimes weeks on end.

  9. Beata says:

    I was wondering if anybody else has experienced what in my family is called the Train?These are thoughts accompanied by a feeling of wothlessness and powerlessness much like during depression.We call it The Train because it is as powerfull as unstopable.It can ride you for days.It also feels like being under currnent,strange as it is…Last time it started at night and drove me crazy:)all night in my sleep to spit me out in the morning.When it stopped I was so tired as if I’ve been on a real trip of Merry-Go-Around.When it left me the world was innocent and pure like New Years Day.Does anybody know what I am talking about here?My both younger siblings have these thoughts and suffer greatly from it.

  10. Dorothy says:

    I am the mother of a 38 year old bipolar daughter. I need help! My daughter is currently in a Psyche Hospital. I went thru great difficulty and heart ache to get her there. I was at 72 hour hearing and it was so painful. She chose a rarely seen “friend” as her contact person so the hospital will give no information to me. I have to help her any way possible even if it means she will hate me forever. I have been forced to testify against her 2 times in 2 weeks. Since the doctors refuse to talk to me, I have had to diagnose her myself. She has bipolar diagnosis and is so manic for last month that she cannot be approached due to anger, dellusions of grandure and extreme paranoia. I am a nurse and know little about mental illness but these seem to fit. She has alienated most of her friends and relatives. Landlord kicked her out, she quit her job on the spot and has no money. I want desperately to have her remain in hospital until her meds kick in but staff are talking about sending her home very soon. What can I do? Doesn’t a mother have the write to help her daughter any way she can?

  11. anita99 says:

    Xekora : wow never seen the like of this is a work of art, is this 21st century USA ??? to me, the verbal equivalent of Tracey Emin’s Bed. ie ghastly, but modern Art.

    HAVE U heard of ‘gibberish healing??? check out Dr.Kataria.Laughter Yoga.
    and Slava the clown. knows a lot more than any [moderated] pill pusher.

  12. Amy Murphy says:

    I have thoughts sometimes that you could say is like an annoying fly. It makes no sense, has no ryhm or reason but just wont go away. It will go on for hours on end for no reason. There is nothing I can do to make it stop and I usually can’t even explain what the thought is. It’s crazy. And it’s usually something so insignificant that it’s stupid. For instance, something like “my dog won’t get under the cover because he doesn’t think the hole to crawl thru is big enough”. Some stupid thought like that will drive me nuts. I can’t sleep over it. That’s why I’m awake now. Then I start having conversations in my head kinda like I’m practicing a speach or something but I’m not. I’m just anticipating a conversation so I have the whole (my side) of the conversation and I can’t stop having it.

    Does this sound familiar to anyone else?

  13. Max Sutcliffe says:

    Amy
    This happens to me all the time its so bloody irritating!!
    I couldn’t stop repeating
    “I am inclined to smoke the chap twice before meals”
    Then trying to figure out what “the chap” was kept me awake all night.
    I imagine that one day ill give my brain the ultimatum.
    “Think normal things or be gone with you!”

  14. Abe the "FAG" says:

    first of all to all you people who dont understand bipolar thoughts. weather or not u have it, have learned through your own coping skills or have just found a comfortable niche where you can finally be the “shitter on” and not the shat upon.. please do not try to give advice because chances are it will deal more damage than it helped. fuckin weak tormented fools, supiroristic i know but im sick of giving power to people who just cant handle being out of their little comfort zones. and the worst thing is ive seen it all and because of that i will become nervous that i will do the wrong thing at the wrong time, which it obvs will because i think and do, which completely justifies whatever judgmental type thoughts the person is having in reaction to the fear of being unsuperior to a “mental” fellow like myself. and just not being able to see past the truth of the sitsu because the only truth they know is what works for them. and after all u will never listen to a crazy disabled person would u? descrimination

  15. Megan says:

    My bi-polor thoughts(all my thoughts) are like compounding elements that serve no purpose but stick around anyway to take up all the non existent and existent space in my head. It’s a freaking issue.

  16. Grace says:

    I also have thoughts, not a little but a lot. They are a fly. I realise that it’s hard to get rid of them if I react to my thought by brushing it away or think that it’s a stupid thought. It will only leads me to more frustration. At last, I’ve learned to make friend with my minds by acknowleging it, recoginze it and understand its concern. Then I try to start searching for answer for my mind and me. So I’m a best frirnd to myself and I get so comfotable that I can be on my own .

  17. Christina says:

    My thoughts come so fast my mouth won’t keep up with my brain. I am up now at 4a cleaning because of the racing thoughts. So hard to Control

  18. Julia says:

    I have bipolar, adhd, and ocd–so thoughts or lack thereof are a constant battle in one form or another.

    I have confusion/no thoughts/jumbled head without my adhd medication. It thankfully just slows everything down so I can make one decision step by step.

    I have racing thoughts, but they’re too fast to be discern-able with the exception of one, which is like a hammer in my brain. This is my mixed state, because it’s constant.

    I have negative, critical thoughts which are usually repetitive and basically a constant commentary on what I’m doing and how I should be doing it differently, or something else, or anything critical.

    I have anxiety thoughts, that are often racing and/or repetitive. They’re worrying thoughts. “What if? I can’t. But.” etc. It also involves me working out conversations before they happen as well. Or rehashing conversations in the back of my head, though that would probably fall better under the negative thoughts. Anxiety thoughts are among my hardest. They’re also obsessive and come with a compulsive need to fix whatever the anxiety thought is.

    I have intrusive, usually violent, thoughts. Trying to make these go away or overly correct them does not help; it only makes it worse.

    I have spontaneous and random thoughts just like anybody else; I tend to get excited over mine.

    It is necessary to “talk back” to the negative, critical thoughts to a certain extent. To counter it or to reframe what I’m seeing as a problem more positively.

    The two worst types are the jumbled/confused and manic racing. The intrusive violent ranks right in there too. They’re all no fun.

    I do have positive thoughts too!!! By choice, I create those.

  19. Jamie says:

    QUOTE FROM GIGI ABOVE:

    “Gigi Marsten says:
    …You definitely should be on medication. I’m exhausted just reading that. Take care.”

    Yeah I agree she needs medication and YOU Gigi need to get off your medication –you know the BITCH pills you must be popping daily? Because Gigi you sound like SUCH a bitch!

  20. stevie nicks says:

    When it comes to lording over another inmate here, it just doesn’t belong. Your not the boss here and neither is she. You (nameless) sound like some one I used to know. She’d write on a bipolar forum under many assumed names, then answer herself, to either chastise one of her own characters, (anonymously) or to compliment one of her better personalities and writings profusely. She needed attention SO badly, she was writing scores of fake posts, all thru the day, changing her story lines, but truly and desperately begging for attention, nevertheless. I found out later she was borderline, and I jumped ship on that place. I learned that-that’s a horrible place to be mentally and I was too fragile to take or hear the abuse with her unfamiliar, unwarranted anger and lording. She HAD to be right or she’d not eat. She’d follow you around under one of her alias’ just to publicly berate you, if you had a different opinion. The moderator would kick her (one of her) off frequently, but back she’d come under another name. “No” or “leave” wasn’t in her vocabulary. I knew nothing about BPD but do now, and when I see a bipolar woman -name calling, I get flash backs. If anyone reading this is BPD, take a deep breath if you feel like going ‘off’ on anyone. Try to follow the suggestions your therapist has given you. I have seen what damage you can cause and it’s not fair to bipolar people. I say this kindly- trying very hard to understand the way you act or think but defending other ‘bipolar only’ people with their way of thinking. We are a different illness altogether. If you are co-morbid w/ bipolar you have my sympathies, it must be terribly rough for you. These are my intrusive thoughts du jour. Those darn triggers.

  21. becky says:

    I found this post because its dawned on me that my thought patterns are not normal. There is so much chatter in my mind that (like another posted said) it makes it hard for me to read, or concentrate on the things I’m meant to be doing. I zone out when people are talking to me to have a little think. I get edgy when I’ve been around people for too long and haven’t had my thinking time.
    These aren’t sinister thoughts or anything but I massively over-think things until I find I’m thinking about thinking about thinking… You name it, I’ll think about it. Snippets of conversations can kick around my brain for days, years… and if something bothers me, I’ll stew till I’m sick to death of stewing. My thoughts can be quite rapid and bounce quickly from topic to topic. This can help sometimes – I’m a good problem solver because I can see all the possibilities at once; I’ll think about the things no one else will think about and i’ll weight them up faster to get to the solution. But in terms of life in general it’s becoming a problem. I don’t know if this is bipolar or not. I really just liked the way you had written about it and expressed it so well.

  22. Stephanie says:

    Wow, just been reading these posts and many over the past few weeks as for many years now I have I think been in denial that perhaps there is something not quite right mentally going on.
    I can relate to so much of what I have read and feel a little less alone and confused just reading that it’s not just me. But still wonder if Imagining it all.
    The racing thoughts are like having bouncy balls in my head and the hyper activity is very distracting as although I’m faster and full of energy I’m not actually able to stick to any one thing.
    I’ve never spoken to anyone or looked into this to much but I think maybe it’s time I did.

  23. lynne says:

    If only I could think like “normal” people. If only I could think even 1 thought that other people could understand (or just pretend to)! Everyone else’s brain is so simple and straightforward. The way I try to describe what’s inside mu head is…its like a ball of string has been pulled out of my head, unravelled, scrunched back up, tangled into massive knots and replaced back inside my skull-along with the 366 little (but very loud) people! They sound really cute don’t they??? Those little people, but, no, they can’t be trusted like everything else in life. They’ll all start on 1 at the same time. Controlling every thought, idea, worry I have, trying to confuse me more than I already am. None of them help me now. It was so different in the olden days. I used to love to hear stories from my grandpa. Why can’t I think and remember any good things? Why do they only let me keep bad thoughts and memories? Pumping pumping pumping…asking asking asking…shouting shouting shouting…banging banging banging…CONSTANTLY. I want to know what peace and quiet is…or do I? I’m pretty scared of that. Scared of being ALONE. At least all 366 of these little people make sure i’m never alone. I wonder….will they go take over someone else’s brain when I die? How would they get there? Do they only go to useless people? To help them? Constantly laughing at me, coz i’m so f**ked up.Everyone.what is today gonna bring? STOP ASKING STUPID QUESTIONS LYNNE. Igive up Lynne!x

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