Thought Insertion?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Is this described as thought insertion or just something normal that happens to everyone.

When I’m going to sleep at night usually when I’m doing my before sleep prayer at times my mind drifts uncontrollably to something unrelated to the prayer for just a split second. Let’s say I’m praying about my family and I start thinking about a swing and children playing in it, even if it’s just a second before I get my attention back on track it and continue my prayer then I fall asleep a minute or two after. This is starting to freak me out just like every mental illness I obsess over.

A. The phrase “thought insertion” is associated with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. By definition, thought insertion is a delusion in which an individual believes that thoughts are being placed into their mind by an outsider. A delusion is a false belief or an opinion that is strongly held despite evidence to the contrary.

The thoughts that you have described only last for a “split second” and are non-delusional in nature.

I think what you have described is very normal. Sleep is a return to the unconscious. You are moving from consciousness to unconsciousness. It is a slow process of transition. During the process, there is a shift occurring where you are becoming more and more unconscious. When you are fully unconscious, you will dream.

What you are experiencing is just very early dreaming. It’s just the very beginning of the process. It is quite normal, and we all experience it, and more, but we forget it because it is followed by sleep, which erases these transitory memories.

Based on the information you have provided and the symptoms that you have described, there does not seem to be any indication of a mental health disorder.

I hope this helps to ease your mind. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle
Mental Health & Criminal Justice Blog

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 Sep 2013

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2013). Thought Insertion?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/09/10/thought-insertion/