Thought blocking is a thought condition usually caused by a mental health condition such as schizophrenia. During thought blocking, a person stops speaking suddenly and without explanation in the middle of a sentence. People who experience this symptom report that they feel like the thought has been removed from their brains.
Examples of Thought Blocking
Thought blocking can occur at any time during speech, but is particularly common when a person is discussing a psychologically sensitive topic. For example, a person might begin discussing childhood abuse with her therapist and then stop speaking midway through the sentence. When the therapist asks the person to continue, the person may respond that she completely forgot what she was going to say.
Thought blocking is different from the occasional lapses in memory most people experience. Brief lapses in memory can usually be triggered by thoughtful questions or by refocusing on the topic, but people experiencing thought blocking truly cannot recall what they were going to say. While it is similar to the deliberate process of avoiding thoughts or speaking about certain topics, it is not a conscious choice and people who experience thought blocking feel as if their thoughts have vanished.
Causes and Treatment
The most common cause of thought blocking is schizophrenia, but trauma, brain injuries, and some drugs may also induce thought blocking. Treatment usually requires medication to manage the symptoms of the underlying conditions, but people may also learn coping skills to help them focus on and manage their thoughts.
- Kring, A. M., Johnson, S. L., Davison, G. C., & Neale, J. M. (2010). Abnormal psychology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
- Schizophrenia. (n.d.). National Institutes of Mental Health. Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/schizophrenia/complete-index.shtml
Last Updated: 08-28-2015
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KalnirDecember 18th, 2015 at 7:42 AM
I thought block all the time. I’ll be talking about something and suddenly what it was all about, I’ll ask the person and I’ll just go like, “What? I said that?”.. This happens all the time to the point I feel like my brain is empty. All my thoughts get removed at some point I can’t help but feel sad and wish to forget I exist.. okay that was too deep lol
andreaSeptember 7th, 2016 at 4:32 PM
Omgosh I feel the same way. I’m so happy you post this because I thought block all the time to. Unfortunately my brain is also very empty as well. We have this in common. I been wondering how to treat it but once again unfortunately with my schizophrenia there isn’t much that can be treated besides this illness itself. Your so NOT alone out there.
drissFebruary 5th, 2017 at 10:29 PM
actually me to i feel like my brain is empthy i can’t remember what i said before 4 or 6 seconds! it happen to me all the time , 2 weeks ago i was discussing particualr topic with my teacher, suddenly my toughts stoped! i couldn’t remember what i was talking about! the teacher said to me repeat what you said but i couldn’t… can you give me your facbook to talk with you thanks
KalnirNovember 22nd, 2017 at 1:20 PM
Sorry. Only saw your comment now. I wouldn’t say I had schizophrenia but because of how terrified I was of offending schizophrenics, I never dared call myself them. But back then, it was pretty freaking severe. I’d hallucinate all the time and had this one guy in my head order me around in life, listened to whatever he ordered me to do like cut off all my friendships or not to smile for a day, and when I wouldn’t, I’d get punished. Something awful had to happen to me that day.
That’s not schizophrenia though if I just got better. That all was during the time I was 11-13 ish time, now I just turned 15 2 hours ago (lol) but it’s not POSSIBLE to have an illness for 2 years. So was that just 11 year old me desperate for attention about a fake illness? But I was genuinely in the worst time of my life and genuinely felt awful every freaking day. So how am I supposed to draw the line between okay and not okay. sorry. I’m just really confused. :( I still change topics incredibly quickly to make up for me forgetting topics, to the point where it’s very noticeable in conversation how easily derailed I am off any topic. I don’t even know what I’m trying to say. I’m just.. sad I guess. I wish I went for help back when I was 11, but I don’t think my parents would take me seriously. My mom just laughed this one time I came out from my room having sobbed in my room for hours. Isn’t that insensitive? It happened two years ago and I’m still offended.
KalnirNovember 22nd, 2017 at 1:24 PM
and, question guys. is it normal to feel sad at the same time every week. for eg. I always get depressed exactly at Friday. I guess because I have to hold up a happy fake persona throughout the weekdays and I kind of break down? I stop.. being the ‘me’ everyone knows?? I just glare at walls and too tired to talk with anyone, I just want to be left alone. I used to get excited for weekends because that meant time for me to sob in my room.
but now? I’m 15 and I just spend majority of my time studying. I hate to just unwind and think ’cause it makes me cry. I’m scared. I.. I’m so talkative. I’ll just stop here, sorry.
KalnirNovember 22nd, 2017 at 1:30 PM
I’m sorry if I offended anyone, by the way. I would have long ago gone to a psychologist and found out rather than this long ago, but in my family and culture, I don’t know a single person who goes to the psychologist and just imagining asking my parents sounds awful. So I’m sorry if you have schizophrenia and are sick of people using the illness as a way for.. I don’t know, attention. I’m really sorry. If I truly were seeking attention I’d be telling everyone about my thoughts but I’m kind of ashamed by it anyways. I don’t like it because it makes me feel.. not okay. I’m really sorry. I don’t know why I’m even crying about this because I can be such an apathetic person and here I am crying and apologizing.
AdrianJanuary 21st, 2017 at 4:29 PM
I have been thought blocking past 3 years. I happens suddenly and I know it’s happening however I cannot express speech or recognise text. I try to bluff it out and usually it lasts 30 seconds. But it’s really depressing because it limits you socially.
IdaFebruary 15th, 2017 at 12:26 PM
I feel like this too. When I Talk with people my brain suddently feels like its complettly empty. When I try to think a new thought I can’t.
janeFebruary 19th, 2017 at 2:56 PM
Ida, this has happened to me since childhood…..your whole body justs stops along wiith your brain.
areeshaAugust 2nd, 2017 at 8:32 AM
thank god u posted this it started happening to me three years before and it has slowed down but still happens i get stuck like three to four times in a day and i really feel bad
Johnny P.August 11th, 2017 at 7:35 AM
I was just gonna say that…. darn..I forgot. What was I gonna say? I feel like my thought was blocked
mAugust 30th, 2017 at 5:54 PM
There are reasons we thought block. Sometimes we think we were not being truthful and we question the veracity of the thought, and as a defense, we block it out. Only problem is that just like we realize we might be disclosing something “shameful”, we block it and to make sure it doesn’t come back, we are non discriminating of whatever other thoughts are there at the same time and erase everything. We may be thinking, high functioning reasoning, that any other thought related to that one might lead to the ONE! Sadly, if we could confront that one, we might be able to move along toward happiness, but may think we don’t deserve it.
ChrisAugust 31st, 2017 at 8:59 PM
Your comment makes sense to me. I have not thought I was schizophrenic but I have been frustrated by this thing that happens so unexpectedly. No one believes when I tell them the thought is gone. Sometimes I am even about to explain an idea and it is humerous that I would say “Listen to this idea” and then everything is gone. It has been humiliating and made me self conscious. I don’t think I am a dumb person but I haven’t been able to explain what was happening until I stumbled upon an article about schizophrenia and thought blocking. I don’t think I am schizo but the thought blocking part is dead on.
Your comment feels like it is hitting at the core concern because there is some sort of fear that almost cancels out the thought. My brain instantly challenges the information and gets sidetracked. I want to be able to manage this and improve my ability to respond to it or work through it.
I would love to hear more of your thoughts or be directed to where you learned about thought-blocking. Is there anything you can direct me to that might help?
Danny F.September 11th, 2017 at 12:08 AM
Wow, you guys just got me wondering if I’m like you too. I just started out looking up whether or not you could have 2 thoughts at the same time. That came from wondering if my wife could really not be able to think about her breathing when she tries to sleep.
I thought block all the time. I also have a consistent train of thought that seems to override most of the others.
AprilApril 1st, 2018 at 10:20 AM
I’ve been thought blocking with speech for so long my family is used to how I speak. However now I am starting to forget how to do things while in the middle of doing them. Does anyone else experience this
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