“Thought Broadcasting: When Your Thoughts Are No Longer Your Own”
by Eric Taipale
Discover, February 12, 2022
Pitch: “If You Could Read My Mind: What is Thought Broadcasting?”
I hope you had a restful weekend! The following pitch is for a proposed article entitled, “If You Could Read My Mind: What is Thought Broadcasting?” which I suggest being published in the Mind section of Discover Magazine’s website. If this piece’s outlined summary and details do not align with your expertise, please forward this email to someone who may assist in publishing this work. Additionally, I would complete this assignment within one week of the pitch’s acceptance.
Nevertheless, of the nearly 300 diagnosable mental disorders outlined in the DSM-5, a diagnostic manual published by the American Psychiatric Association, conditions involving the onset of paranoid delusions and hallucinations are considered to be the most debilitating for those afflicted. This troubling notion is reflected in the rate of suicide for people diagnosed with psychotic disorders, such as individuals who have schizophrenia who—in some cases—have a risk 12 times higher than the general population, according to an article published in the French psychiatric journal L’Encéphale. Other common psychotic disorders—including bipolar disorder, delusional disorder, and schizoaffective disorder—impose equally challenging symptoms, characterized by the onset of eccentric behaviour and cognitive distortions.
The specific organization of these psychotic features is separated into two primary axes called positive and negative, which can be present either simultaneously or individually at different intervals. Negative symptoms, including a lack of motivation, asociality, and blunted affect, are the opposite of their positive counterparts and are generally more subdued but are still equally debilitating. Positive symptoms, however, are synonymous with highly animated and exaggerated traits, such as hallucinations, disorganized behaviour, and delusions—beliefs that are false and obscure and can be oriented around many different themes such as religion or spirituality.
One peculiar delusion is called thought broadcasting, the firm notion that others can hear or interpret what you are thinking. Of the six types of delusions; erotomanic, grandiose, persecutory, jealous, somatic, and mixed, this delusion is classified as “persecutory,” since an individual who gravitates towards this false idea believes that it’s antagonistic or even life-threatening. For many who suffer from this delusion, they may conclude that their thoughts can be transferred through certain technologies, such as televisions and radios, prompting them to abstain from contact with these mediums.
This article will examine the symptoms and behaviours associated with thought broadcasting and describe incidents noted where the delusion has been present in an individual’s psychology. One such example involves a London tea broker named James Tilly Matthews, who was committed to the Bethlehem Hospital in 1797 after displaying eccentric behaviour. He would later claim that a device he termed as the “Air Loom,” a large machine that a group of criminals operated was tormenting him in different ways. Moreover, Matthews concluded that the machine emitted rays that could induce both bodily harms and broadcast one’s body. This case is regarded as the most notable instance of this type of delusion in a clinical setting.
This essay also details the mental afflictions of the late English artist Bryan Charnley, who wrote and expressed his struggles with schizophrenia. Like James Tilley Matthews, he believed that others could communicate with him through telepathy and read his mind, a delusion that made him feel exposed and depressed. He expressed his feelings in a series of self-portraits that were accompanied by journal entries describing his mental state and the meaning behind each painting. This work would incorporate excerpts from his journal available on his biographical webpage.
For the sake of original reporting, I have taken already interviewed Sarah L. Kopelovich, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington, about thought broadcasting in the form of an email. She has previously published a study in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice and has provided valuable insight into the matters discussed in this proposed article. Also, images of both the aforementioned “Air Loom” illustrated by James T. Matthews and a painting by Bryan Charnley from his aforementioned self-portrait series have been attached in the email.
I appreciate your consideration! If you have any questions or are interested in this project, please email me back at your earliest convenience!