Karen is a 12 years old orphan girl, she is lively, energetic, and helpful towards others but when she talks…she is always hopping from one topic to another in a blink of a moment. She talks about four to six things at the same time and never finishes any of those topics. So? What’s wrong with her? Or is there anything wrong with her at all?
What you have just read is a symptomatic condition called Flight of ideas.
Flight of ideas is often related to many mental conditions or mental processes a person goes through throughout their life.
You may have come across a person in your life who talks quickly and immensely utilizes proverbs and idioms while striking a conversation.
With these people, you mostly find yourself not getting a word in edgewise as they are often rambling and jump from one topic to another faster than one can track.
These particular patterns of behavior are often known as the Flight of ideas.
What is the meaning of Flight of ideas?
Flight of ideas is considered a symptom of mental health diseases, like schizophrenia or Bipolar disorder. When a person suffering from these symptoms talks, they usually jump from one topic to another very quickly and often sound Fidgety, restless, or super excited.
These people often strike fast-paced conversations, they tend to speak hastily and they change the subject frequently while talking. The new subject can be related to the former subject, the connection between the two subjects could be weak or the two subjects might not be related at all.
What is the History of the flight of ideas?
The term Flight of ideas or Ideenflucht was first coined by a known neurologist and psychiatrist Hugo Liepmann in his 1904 work title in which he explained his observations of logorrhoea or super representations.
The term was described probably best by Eugen Bleuler in 1923 who wrote
‘Even normal persons who are ‘‘in good humor’’, or ‘‘stimulated’’ sometimes give the subjective and objective impression as if their thinking process ran with particular ease . . . In pathological states . . . we often find a morbid exaggeration of the afore-mentioned state, which is designated as the flight of ideas. Here the most striking phenomenon is the exaggerated distractibility, which at first comes from within but later also from without. The patients change their objective idea with abnormal frequency’
This is the best description provided to which we are accustomed to till this day.
Difference between Flight of idea and other conditions:
The term Flight of ideas can be often confused with a similar term called “racing thoughts”
The difference between the two terms lies in the fact that racing thoughts are usually focused on one particular topic. They are often stress-related e.g.
“I have a big meeting tomorrow, but I am not prepared for it. I could be prepared if I worked on it more but doing all this office work also makes me feel more stressed. If I’m more stressed I’ll likely perform poorly in the meeting but if I don’t prepare at all I’ll also perform poorly and either way, It’s a huge dilemma because this meeting is a crucial step towards my promotion and if this does not go well I won’t get my promotion which means I won’t get an increment which I need terribly …”
On the other hand, the Flight of ideas changes the focus of the thought process every moment depending upon surroundings, life events, stress levels, distractions, associations, etc.
Sometimes, even the closest friends or relatives find it hard to follow the disorganized talking patterns of a person suffering from the symptoms of flight of ideas. e.g.
“I am tired. Do I have enough cat food at my place? I wonder if it’s going to rain again tomorrow. What is the reality of the horoscope? I should learn to play chess. My mom should start seeing a therapist. I forgot about the test tomorrow”.
Tangentiality or tangential speech:
This is a pretty common condition in people suffering from a mental disease like schizophrenia or when a person experiences delirium.
In this condition, a person starts a conversation or begins telling a story but ends up being incoherent and rambling and never reach the point or conclusion. A person is more likely to be digressive regarding irrelevant and random topics.
Loosening of Association or derailment:
This one is also very common in schizophrenia in which a person hops from one idea to another with splintering connections between the ideas and thoughts.
Often a person jumps between the topics or ideas which are essentially irrelevant to each other or the connection is quite fragmented. It is also known as Knight’s move thinking as it is quite unexpected which is similar to the move of the knight in a chess game.
What are the indications?
A flight of ideas is not a mental health condition itself but rather it can be a symptom of one. There are few signs to look for in a person suffering from the flight of ideas:
- They appear much more talkative than they usually are.
- They get distracted easily.
- They quickly jump from one topic to another while talking.
- They can function on just a few hours of sleep.
- They usually act “wired” while talking.
- They may not be very discreet while talking.
What leads a person to have a Flight of ideas?
This condition of flight of ideas can be correlated with various medical conditions or traumas e.g.
A person suffering from stressful conditions can often experience a flight of ideas as being stressed can lead the mind to become cloudy and masks one’s ability to think straight.
Flight of ideas is often related to one being extremely anxious or excited. The anxiety can be a disease itself or could be correlated to some other condition like obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Even if a person does not suffer from any apparent or underlying mental health condition, they can still experience a flight of ideas if they are going through some extreme range of emotions.
Many drugs that cause euphoria can often lead to the flight of ideas e.g. marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, etc.
Which diseases are common with Flight of ideas?
Flight of ideas is pretty common in people suffering from bipolar disorders. They are usually seen when a person is having one of the Manic episodes which is one of the symptoms of Bipolar disorder.
Manic episodes or episodes of mania is one of the two main types of mood episodes, there is another mood episode called the depressive episode.
People suffering from schizophrenia also suffer from the symptom of flight of ideas. Schizophrenia is a chronic psychiatric disorder that often leads to a false perception of reality, paranoia, delusions, or hallucinations which can interfere with the thought patterns and can lead to one suffering from the flight of ideas.
If you are aware that you are experiencing a flight of ideas and that there is something wrong with your thinking patterns then you can surely learn to manage them yourself. i.e.
- You can create some changes in your routine which may include physical exercises, meditation, or opting for a new hobby to keep yourself busy.
- You can create a recovery wellness plan on any preferred site which may include your mental health condition, treatment procedure, your contact information, your family and physician’s contact information so that they can help you at the time of crises.
- Flight of ideas related to manic episodes can be managed by managing manic episodes by avoiding any triggers that may lead to manic episodes and making sure that your family and friends also recognize certain signs of manic episodes when you are not able to do them yourself.
There is no particular treatment protocol for the flight of ideas itself. A person suffering from a flight of ideas is usually evaluated for other mental health conditions and if a person is found out to have a certain mental health condition then they are treated for that particular mental health condition like Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia, Anxiety, ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder.