Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Anxiety OC PTSD, Clinical Neuropsychology, Depression, Neuroscience.

Description: What happens when you sit down, relax and try to let your mind just wonder? Do you think creative thoughts? Do you become anxious about things you have to get done in the near future? Do you use the time to organize your thoughts and plan your activities for the upcoming hours and days? While most people do a little bit of each of these things from time to time some people seem to get stuck in certain thought patterns that can begin to cause problems. Think a little bit about each of the suggestions I made above and think about what challenges or even with what disorders they might potentially be associated. To an extent we think of disorders and problematic thinking as unexpected abnormalities but in fact they may simply reflect the possibility that humans can sometimes get stuck thinking in particular, otherwise adaptive,  ways. The article linked below starts to explore this interesting possibility. As you read it think a little bit about the various situations and circumstances in which your mind either wonders or gets focus or fixated on particular thoughts and events and see if you can see the sorts of connections that are discussed in the article.

Source: Does your mind jump around, stay on task or get stuck? Analysis of mind-wandering studies offers new perspective on mental disorders. ScienceDaily.

Date: November 1, 2016


Photo Credit:  Sam Bell,

Links:  Article Link —

The research discussed in the article linked above asks a number of important and interesting questions about the nature of thought patterns associated with depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder (ADHD). Essentially the authors of the research article are pointing to some possible links between spontaneous thought, ruminative thought, and goal-directed thought and the patterns of thought associated with the disorders listed above. They are pointing out that the disorders may actually be linked to otherwise adaptive patterns of thought that become overused or over accessed in those people presenting with the disorders. Essentially what they are suggesting is that we all have an equivalent of someone with anxiety and someone with ADHD in our minds. The persona with anxiety keeps us focused on what’s important to us while the ADHD persona allows us to open our minds allow them to wander and to engage in creative speculation. What this approach suggests are some potential advantages in terms of how we think about certain disorders if we shift from thinking of them as abnormal and atypical and start to think of them more in terms of being reflective of the natural forms of thinking that are either over applied or under accessed in individuals who appear to be presenting disordered symptoms. It may go a long way towards helping us to address the issue of negative stigma associated with mental disorders if we are able to see more clearly how the patterns of thought disorders involve natural human thought patterns that are being overused or that are being caught up in difficulties with thought pattern transitions.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are the different types of thinking that the researchers are discussing?
  2. How are the different types of thinking that you noted in the previous question related to symptoms and thought patterns associated with various disorders? Can you think of other disordered thought patterns that might reflect sometimes adaptive modes of thinking?
  3. How might looking at the possible relationship between typical or normal thought patterns that are brain cycles in and out of and disordered patterns of thought help us to better understand and potentially to better treat individuals with disordered patterns of thought?

References (Read Further):

Kalina Christoff, Zachary C. Irving, Kieran C. R. Fox, R. Nathan Spreng, Jessica R. Andrews-Hanna. Mind-wandering as spontaneous thought: a dynamic framework. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2016; 17 (11): 718 DOI: 10.1038/nrn.2016.113

Anthony I. Jack, Abigail Dawson, Katelyn Begany, Regina L. Leckie, Kevin Barry, Angela Ciccia, Abraham Snyder. fMRI reveals reciprocal inhibition between social and physical cognitive domains. NeuroImage, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.10.061