Mind-wandering Could Help Understand Mental Illnesses — Study

Recently, a University of British Columbia-led review of research on mind-wandering revealed that an understanding of how the human thoughts flow or work could help understand the stream of consciousness of patients diagnosed with mental illnesses like anxiety, depression and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

The study, published in the Nature Reviews Neuroscience in November 2016, came up with a system to figure out how the thought process works even while one is at rest. Mind-wandering is when thoughts begin to stray and interrupt people from what they are doing at the moment, said the lead author Kalina Christoff, a psychology professor at UBC.

However, she further noted that this definition of mind-wandering is still limited because it does not encapsulate the entire dynamics of the thought process. Pointing to the fact that the mind can sometimes move from one thought to another and sometimes keep coming back to the same idea triggered by some emotion or worry, she reiterated that it is crucial to understand what can make thoughts free and what makes them constrained. Only then, it will become clear as to how thoughts behave specially in the minds of people diagnosed with mental health problems.

Mind-wandering is the default state of the mind

The researchers stated that mind-wandering is a default state of the mind and is natural for human beings. However, wandering thoughts can be reined in with techniques that can be learned. There are two types of constraints a person can exert to curtail this spontaneous flow of thoughts — one is automatic and the other deliberate. They went through the rigor of reviewing neuroscience literature, and over 200 journals, to comprehend how thought processes are grounded as the brain networks interact among themselves.

This framework may hold enough promise for further neuroscience research. This newer perspective could help psychologists in gaining a more in-depth perspective about mental illnesses, said study co-author Zachary Irving, a University of California postdoctoral scholar in Berkeley.

The minds of every individual have a natural ebb and flow of thoughts, however, the framework reconceptualizes problems like depression, ADHD, and anxiety as an extension of that normal variation of the thinking process, according to Irving.

The anxious minds promote focusing on those aspects, which are important for one personally, while the ADHD minds help people think creatively and freely, he said. In addition, the framework, in a sense, suggests that “we all have someone with anxiety and ADHD in our minds.”

They also acknowledged that mind-wandering is not all bad as it could also possibly be a sign of creativity. At times, the minds of creative people may be flooded with thoughts, which can wander freely. They believed that creative thinking and dreaming arise when thoughts are not shackled by deliberated and automatic constraints. There is a thin line delineating mind-wandering and creative thinking.

Hence, mind-wandering, according to the researchers, is not an odd peculiarity of the mind, but something the mind does the moment it enters into a spontaneous mode. And Christoff observed that this mode, which is spontaneous, is necessary so that people can do things like dream or think creatively.

Dealing with mental problems

Mental health disorders could be challenging for the patient as well as the members of the immediate family. Mentally ill patients need to seek treatment so that symptoms can be managed on time and one can realign to the mainstream life at the earliest.

If you have a loved one suffering from any mental condition, contact Sovereign Mental Health Services which provides holistic and comprehensive treatment for almost every mental health problem in state-of-the-art facilities located across the U.S. Whether you are looking for inpatient mental health treatment centers in Los Angeles or a rehab in your vicinity, help is just a call away. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866–973–7164 for immediate assistance. Our residential mental health treatment in Los Angeles is among the top in the country.