Tangentiality - GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog (2023)

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Tangentiality - GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog (1)Tangentiality is the tendency to speak about topics unrelated to the main topic of discussion. While most people engage in tangentiality from time to time, constant and extreme tangentiality may indicate an underlying mental health condition, particularly schizophrenia.

Tangentiality and Mental Health
Everyone goes off on tangents sometimes. Indeed, it is the ability to modify the topic of conversation that often helps to move conversation forward. However, extreme tangentiality may indicate a mental health condition.

People experiencing mental health conditions may be so focused on their own internal dialogue that they are unable to focus on conversation or questions; in some cases, their internal dialogues may prevent them from understanding conversation. Tangentiality is also common during times of high anxiety. People experiencing anxiety may engage in tangentiality by talking excessively about seemingly unrelated topics or by being unable to listen to another person’s opinions or ideas. When tangentiality is caused by anxiety it is often short lived, but chronic tangentiality may indicate an ongoing problem with anxiety.

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People who are victims of trauma may go on tangents either to avoid discussing the trauma or because they are so overwhelmed that they are unable to think clearly.

Examples of Tangentiality
Mentioning something that happened earlier in the day during a discussion about finances is an example of tangentiality, but is not extreme enough to warrant a diagnosis of a thought disorder. More troubling examples of tangentiality occur when a person repeatedly goes off on a tangent and is completely unable to participate in a discussion. Ongoing tangentiality may lead to communication problems with others and therefore negatively impact one’s interpersonal relationships. For example, when a therapist poses the question, “How was your week?” a person may respond with, “When I was five, my cat was killed.” When the therapist asks about the cat the person may then begin to discuss something completely different such as religious beliefs or previous illnesses.


  1. Colman, A. M. (2006). Oxford dictionary of psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  2. Kring, A. M., Johnson, S. L., Davison, G. C., & Neale, J. M. (2010). Abnormal psychology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Last Updated:01-18-2018

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  • Tangentiality - GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog (2)

    Gloria K G

    January 8th, 2018 at4:59 PM

    My older sister recently moved from another state to the town where I live. I had not been around her much for years, but was aware that she is quite a talker. Now that I have spent more time with her, I see that her problem may be much deeper. She is very opinionated and thinks she is an expert on every topic. Anything anyone says sends her into a monologue that includes every experience she has ever had on that topic; for example, if someone says, “I was sick and threw up today,” they will hear in graphic detail about every time she has even felt sick at her stomach and thrown up. There seems to be no stopping her. No one else has a chance to say much due to her tangents. Being around her for very long really stresses me out. I love her, but what can I do about this?


  • Tangentiality - GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog (3)

    Staciemarie W. C.

    March 17th, 2018 at11:15 AM

    Tell her. And do it quickly. I can tell you from experience. What she is doing is attempting to validate her person. Please 4give my choice of words as I to am still struggling to get past that behavior myself.
    But, back to what you should do. Tell her how you feel and why. Most important give her examples of a better way to respond. I’m 47 years old and it’s taken a lifetime for me too see myself. I would have greatly appreciated it has someone made me aware of how uncomfortable people became because of that trait


  • Tangentiality - GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog (4)


    April 12th, 2021 at9:45 PM

    Would you mind discussing your experience with me? I am also just now clued into this behavior and further understanding may be helpful. I appreciate your further discussion.

    (Video) 10 Warning Signs of Gaslighting


  • Tangentiality - GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog (5)

    Mathew Ryan

    August 25th, 2021 at1:44 AM

    I see Tangential in my medical records next to Thought Process. Do you have time to listen to me talk about this? I will try to get to the point quickly to be considerate of your time. So, to help communicate and share my thoughts effectively, here is some background information. I am a USMC veteran and have been in treatment for complexed PTSD, MDD, Anxiety, ect. I also have previous physical injuries relating to traumas I experienced including my knees, back, and hearing. In the military, I was in car accidents, personally assaulted, known people who have taken their own life, seen dismembered people and people die in front of me, been in violent abusive relationships, been homeless, and struggled with substance abuse. I am in treatment and thank God for self control and patience during a crisis. Ok, so there is the background info, and if irrelevant, I apologize. When I saw Tangential in my mental health record…how do I describe my emotions. I talk too much, that’s what I hear from other people, and my wife gets mad when I want to talk about something that is bothering me. I also get irritated when someone talks too much because my thoughts are going in a thousand different directions. Conversations are difficult for me but something I enjoy when someone else can see what I see and vice versa. The mental health people say I have PTSD but then I believe they think I am lying, and they refuse to give me a disability rating or any compensation from my service, like I am just trying to get money, just making it all up and exaggerating my conditions. I also wonder if I have a mental health condition no one is telling me about and I am unable to perceive that condition because of the condition. What is wrong with me?! Ok, thank you for reading and for your time, have a nice day.


  • Tangentiality - GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog (6)


    January 6th, 2022 at11:06 PM

    I was abused when I was a younger child I suffer from PTSD and also ADHD plus they say I lived vicious through my children when I was experiencing something for the first time excuse the heck out of me if I wanted my kids to do normal things with me that I didn’t experience they also say I don’t get to the point and my thought process is wrong but my life was no joke and some times I get flash of different point in my life that where not good


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What is the difference between loose associations and tangentiality? ›

Tangentiality: continuous diversion from the topic of focus with no return to it. Looseness of associations: continuing change of topic with only loose associations between topics.

What is an example of a tangential response? ›

Examples of Tangentiality

For example, when a therapist poses the question, “How was your week?” a person may respond with, “When I was five, my cat was killed.” When the therapist asks about the cat the person may then begin to discuss something completely different such as religious beliefs or previous illnesses.

What is the difference between flight of ideas and tangentiality? ›

Andreasen provided a contrast to tangentiality as well: 'Flight of ideas is a derailment that occurs rapidly in the context of pressured speech. Tangentiality has been defined herein as a different phenomenon in that it occurs as the immediate response to a question'.

What is an example of tangentiality in schizophrenia? ›

Tangential Thinking

For example: "I really got mad as I was waiting in line at the grocery store. I cannot stand lines. Waiting and waiting. I waited for a long time to get my driver's license.

What is tangentiality a symptom of? ›

n. a thought disturbance that is marked by oblique speech in which the person constantly digresses to irrelevant topics and fails to arrive at the main point. In extreme form, it is a manifestation of loosening of associations, a symptom frequently seen in schizophrenia or delirium.

What is tangential thinking a symptom of? ›

It tends to occur in situations where a person is experiencing high anxiety, as a manifestation of the psychosis known as schizophrenia, in dementia or in states of delirium. It is less severe than logorrhea and may be associated with the middle stage in dementia.

What are tangential issues? ›

Issues of Concern

[1] Tangentiality refers to a disturbance in the thought process that causes the individual to relate excessive or irrelevant detail that never reaches the essential point of a conversation or the desired answer to a question.

How do you describe a tangential speech? ›

Tangential speech: Also known as tangentiality, this describes the phenomenon in which a person constantly digresses to random, irrelevant ideas and topics. A person might start telling a story but loads the story down with so much irrelevant detail that they never get to the point or the conclusion.

What are tangential comments? ›

Tangential describes something that's not part of the whole. If you make a comment that is tangential to the story you're telling, it's a digression. The story could still be understood without it.

What is the difference between tangentiality and derailment? ›

Tangentiality: Replies to questions are off-point or totally irrelevant. Derailment (loosening of associations): spontaneous speech with marked impairments in topic maintenance.

What is a Alogia? ›

Some people are naturally quiet and don't say much. But if you have a serious mental illness, brain injury, or dementia, talking might be hard. This lack of conversation is called alogia, or “poverty of speech.” Alogia can affect your quality of life.

What is the difference between tangential and circumstantial? ›

Circumstantial speech is more direct than tangential speech in which the speaker wanders and drifts and usually never returns to the original topic, and is far less severe than logorrhea.

What types of speech is tangential? ›

Tangential speech is a communication disorder in which the train of thought of the speaker wanders and shows a lack of focus, never returning to the initial topic of the conversation. It is less severe than Logorrhea and may be associated with the middle stage in dementia.

What is the most common thought disorder of schizophrenia? ›

A formal thought disorder (FTD) is a disruption of the form or structure of thought. Formal thought disorder, also known as disorganized thinking, results in disorganized speech and is recognized as a major feature of schizophrenia and other psychoses.

What are some examples of disorganized thinking speech? ›

Disorganized speech typically arises from abnormal thought processes. A person engaging in disorganized speech might quickly jump from one unrelated topic to another, engage in incoherent “word salad,” repeat things another person says back to them, or appear to be speaking with nonexistent entities.

Can you lose your train of thought while talking? ›

Thought blocking occurs when someone is talking and suddenly stops for no clear reason. Losing one's train of thought now and then is common and not usually anything to worry about. However, it can also be a symptom of a mental health condition such as psychosis.

What mental illness causes irrational thoughts? ›

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by repetitive, unwanted, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and irrational, excessive urges to do certain actions (compulsions). Although people with OCD may know that their thoughts and behavior don't make sense, they are often unable to stop them.

What type of disorder that can disrupt thinking? ›

Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a complex psychotic disorder characterised by disruptions to thinking and emotions, and a distorted perception of reality.

What is the mental disorder that makes someone say whatever comes to mind? ›

Logorrhea (psychology) - Wikipedia.

What is tangential stress in simple words? ›

Definition of tangential stress. : a force acting in a generally horizontal direction. simply it is acting in parallel to surface .

What is a tangential argument? ›

​(formal) having only a slight or indirect connection with something. a tangential argument.

What is the difference between tangential and normal? ›

The tangent is a straight line which just touches the curve at a given point. The normal is a straight line which is perpendicular to the tangent. We also make use of the fact that if two lines with gradients m1 and m2 respectively are perpen- dicular, then m1m2 = −1.

What is a word salad example? ›

They may also use homophones. They might change “piece” to “peace.” Or “bury” to “berry.” Here are a few examples of word salad: Bags stain purple vacuum.

What is an example of overinclusive thinking? ›

Overinclusive Thinking, Schizotypy, and Creativity

For example, when answering the questions in categorization tasks, such as “Are feet vehicles?”, people with OT tend to think of feet as vehicles based on the fact that feet transport people and items from one place to another just like vehicles.

What is an example of loosening of associations? ›

This can manifest in speech as an individual moving quickly from one idea to an unrelated one in the same sentence, expressing a random jumble of words and phrases. An example of loose association would be: “I like to dance; my feet are wet.”

How do I stop being tangential? ›

How can we avoid tangents?
  1. First, frame the message: Define the context, set the audience expectations and deliver the key message all within one or two sentences.
  2. Second, Provide a structured summary: Use no more than five sentences to outline what is happening and the desired next steps.
Apr 8, 2020

How do you avoid tangents in a conversation? ›

Power Up the Pause

The next time you're concerned about talking too much in a conversation or meeting, pause. Before you speak, take a breath, count to five, and gather your thoughts. Experts say a three to five second pause is enough to help you reframe, refocus, and dim the excitement that inspires you to over-talk.

How do you not go on a tangent when talking? ›

How to Stop Rambling (And Understand Why You Do It)
  1. Make sure you have outlets for your emotions. ...
  2. Practice speaking concisely alone. ...
  3. Take deep breaths during conversations. ...
  4. Think about what you say before you speak. ...
  5. Stick to one topic at a time. ...
  6. Take occasional pauses. ...
  7. Avoid unnecessary details.
Jun 17, 2021

What is grossly disorganized behavior? ›

Grossly disorganized behavior includes difficulty in goal-directed behavior (leading to difficulties in activities in daily living), unpredictable agitation or silliness, social disinhibition [loss of normal inhibitions], or behaviors that are bizarre to onlookers.

What is it called when you jump from one thought to another? ›

Flight of ideas occurs when someone talks quickly and erratically, jumping rapidly between ideas and thoughts. Flight of ideas is not a medical condition in itself. It is a symptom that may occur as part of mania, psychosis, and some neurodevelopmental conditions.

What is word salad symptom? ›

Word salad may describe a symptom of neurological or psychiatric conditions in which a person attempts to communicate an idea, but words and phrases that may appear to be random and unrelated come out in an incoherent sequence instead. Often, the person is unaware that he or she did not make sense.

What's Echopraxia? ›

Echopraxia (which might also be called echokinesis or echomotism) is an involuntary imitation or repetition of someone else's actions. While echolalia is the involuntary repetition of language and sounds, echopraxia is the same but with actions. The word itself comes from Ancient Greek.

What does Euthymic affect mean? ›

Copyright © 2020 World Psychiatric Association. In Fava and Guidi's paper1, euthymia is defined by “lack of mood disturbances that can be subsumed under diagnostic rubrics” , “positive affects” and “psychological well‐being” . So, good mood is euthymic.

What is catatonic Schiz? ›

catatonic schizophrenia, rare severe mental disorder characterized by striking motor behaviour, typically involving either significant reductions in voluntary movement or hyperactivity and agitation. In some cases, the patient may remain in a state of almost complete immobility, often assuming statuesque positions.

What causes loss of thought process? ›

Risk factors of thought process disorder

bipolar disorder. depression. traumatic brain injury. anxiety.

What is loose thought process? ›

In a loose, disorganized thought process, there is no connection between the thoughts and no train of thought to follow.[5] Perseverations are a type of thought process where no matter the topic or question, the patient goes back to the same subject.

What is a blocking thought process? ›

Thought blocking is defined as any experience where a person suddenly finds themselves unable to think, speak, or move in response to events that are happening around them. This may happen at any time. The average duration of episodes is between a few seconds to a minute or longer.

What is an example of loosening associations? ›

This can manifest in speech as an individual moving quickly from one idea to an unrelated one in the same sentence, expressing a random jumble of words and phrases. An example of loose association would be: “I like to dance; my feet are wet.”

What does tangentiality mean? ›

[1] Tangentiality refers to a disturbance in the thought process that causes the individual to relate excessive or irrelevant detail that never reaches the essential point of a conversation or the desired answer to a question.

What is the difference between Circumstantiality and tangentiality? ›

Circumstantiality differs from tangentiality in that the main point is never lost but rather accompanied by a large amount of nonessential information.

What is another term for loose associations? ›

Loose associations are often called out by other names such as derailment, Knight's move thinking, asyndesis, entgleisen.

What is nihilistic delusion? ›

Nihilistic delusions, also known as délires de négation, are specific psychopathological entities characterized by the delusional belief of being dead, decomposed or annihilated, having lost one's own internal organs or even not existing entirely as a human being.

What is grandeur delusion? ›

Delusions, or false beliefs, comes in several types. Delusions of grandeur are one of the more common ones. It's when you believe that you have more power, wealth, smarts, or other grand traits than is true. Some people mistakenly call it “illusions” of grandeur.

What is somatic delusions? ›

Somatic delusions, in which the individual believes something is wrong with part or all of their body, may occur in variety of mental illnesses, including psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and schizophreniform disorder,1 and mood disorders, such as major depression and bipolar disorder.

What is the difference between tangential and circumstantial thinking? ›

Unlike in flight of ideas, circumstantiality contains tighter and more coherent associations that may be easier to follow or understand. Unlike tangential speakers, i.e., those who are circumstantial eventually arrive back at the main point of speech or the answer to a question.

What is the opposite of tangential speech? ›

Circumstantial speech is more direct than tangential speech in which the speaker wanders and drifts and usually never returns to the original topic, and is far less severe than logorrhea.

What are the four types of thought disorders? ›

Perseveration: excessive repetition of words, ideas, or subjects. Echolalia: speech repeats words or phrases of interviewer. Blocking: interruption of speech while ostensibly in pursuit of a goal. Stilted speech: odd language use that may be excessively formal, pompous, outdated, or quaint.

What is emotional derailment? ›

n. a symptom of thought disorder, often occurring in individuals with schizophrenia, marked by frequent interruptions in thought and jumping from one idea to another unrelated or indirectly related idea.

What is word salad psychosis? ›

A word salad, or schizophasia, is a "confused or unintelligible mixture of seemingly random words and phrases", most often used to describe a symptom of a neurological or mental disorder. The term schizophasia is used in particular to describe the confused language that may be evident in schizophrenia.

What is derailed thinking? ›

disconnected thought processes, as manifested by a tendency to shift from one topic to another that is indirectly related or completely unrelated to the first. Thought derailment is a symptom of schizophrenia; the term is essentially equivalent to cognitive derailment.


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