How To Deal With Intrusive Thoughts
WHAT’S IN THIS ARTICLE:
- What are Intrusive Thoughts
- Types Of Intrusive Thoughts
- What You Can Do
- Related Mental Health Disorders
- When to Get Help
The majority of us from time to time experience worry, anxiety, stress, depression, grief, and fear. If you are reading this and do not agree that you have never experienced any of the above, you are not being true to yourself.
Sometimes we experience unwanted thoughts like did we shut the door behind us or did we turn off the stove. This annoying thought may get stuck in our heads until we put our minds at ease. Usually, you can ignore it and move on. But sometimes, it just keeps returning.
What are Intrusive Thoughts?
Intrusive thoughts or negative thoughts are thoughts that either lingers on your mind or pop in out of nowhere. They are part of our coping mechanisms. However unwanted lingering thoughts stem from stress, fear, and anxiety. People who have suffered trauma can affect their beliefs about the future via loss of hope, limited expectations about life, fear that life will end abruptly or early, or anticipation that normal life events won’t occur (e.g., access to education, ability to have a significant and committed relationship, good opportunities for work). All these events can manifest intrusive thoughts.
“Nearly everyone experiences Intrusive Thoughts from time to time”.
So why do these thoughts happen and what causes them?
An intrusive thought is not always related to an underlying condition. It may be caused by:
Intrusive thoughts either linger on one’s mind or simply come in out of nowhere.
These thoughts are unpleasant and unwanted and manifest in our minds, sometimes without warning or other times if we dwell on something for long periods that is worrying us.
These thoughts can sometimes be violent, sexual, or simply harmless worries.
Intrusive thoughts usually heighten when you feel, stressed or distressed, typically having an intrusive once in a while is just part of life.
It only becomes concerning if your thoughts because dangerous and uncontrollable.
In most cases, intrusive thoughts do not have any particular meaning. As long as you recognize that these are only thoughts and are controllable and harmless and that you have no desire to act on them, intrusive thoughts are usually not harmful.
However, if they’re happening often, causing significant concern, or interfering with your daily activities, it’s a good idea to talk with a doctor.
I must admit that I do suffer from intrusive thoughts occasionally, especially when I am stressed or depressed but would never act on them other than if they were related to OCD Germ Contamination. Through my learning journey, I am trying to heal. In fact, I have completed my Diploma in Hypnotherapy, and am studying Neuroplasticity.
Intrusive thoughts can range from random images to disturbing and violent ideas like punching someone in the face or hurting yourself.
(Yes I have had thoughts of punching someone in the face, but I would not go through with such a ludicrous idea because (a) my OCD germ contamination thought would kick in of actually physically touching someone, and secondly (b) it is simply a stupid thought).
Other intrusive thoughts are: did I cross-contaminate (did I touch something by accident) and does my thought warrant me to act on my compulsion such as changing my clothes because my daughter’s cat brushed past me? Usually, I try and fight the urge (CBT). Depending on how stressed I am will depend on how successfully I can resist the thought. Most of the time my germ contamination thoughts overpower me, like I said it all depends on my anxiety and stress levels.
I am aware that with OCD sometimes it is hard to fight your thoughts and you succumb to the urge. Hypnotherapy and meditation help with the process of healing.
Survivor of Domestic Violence
Whilst I was enduring emotional and physical abuse, the thought of harming myself crossed my mind, but again I knew I had to prove to the abuser that I would not be broken, no matter how many times he tried and kept saying to myself what does not kill you make you stronger. I decided no matter how low he made me feel I would not give him the satisfaction and would not give up. I decided to focus on building this site and working really hard. He eventually left with his tail between his legs because he knew he was defeated and no matter what he did or said to me was no longer working. I felt rejoiceful that he had lost his battle to destroy me and I concentrated on moving forward by suppressing all my thoughts and all the bad memories by putting the past behind me.
(I am a survivor of domestic violence, the abuser has left the country).
For anyone else experiencing intrusive thoughts, they are usually harmless as long as they can be under control. But if you obsess about them to the extent that it interrupts your day-to-day life, this can be a sign of an underlying mental health problem.
Intrusive thoughts can be a symptom of grief, stress, anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Types of Intrusive Thoughts
OCD thoughts depending what type of OCD you have. There are Nineteen Characteristics of OCD. With OCD the sufferer that has intrusive thoughts usually actions the compulsions to ease the discomfort of the thought lingering in their head, this could be from checking the door handles and switches to counting or avoiding certain numbers, objects, or people. This is a defense mechanism to protect the sufferer from their fear that if they do not carry out the compulsion something bad might happen.
Sexual thoughts are usually natural regardless of gender. An Intrusive sexual thought however when it becomes uncomfortable with or shocked by the thoughts and images to the point you are fixated on something, you should talk it over with a professional.
Experts say it’s best to remind yourself that these are just passing, automatic thoughts. They don’t define you in any way.
Violent thoughts of punching someone in the face are harmless as long as you do not act on them.
Sometimes violent thoughts may have dark meanings like harming yourself or someone else. Usually, these thoughts are harmless, even repetitive as long as you have no intention to act on them. These thoughts are very unpleasant and if you feel you cannot cope you should speak with a professional or phone the Samaritans. You can also contact us and keep yourself anonymous if you prefer. These thoughts usually pass in time. But if you find yourself planning to follow your thoughts through, you need to speak with a professional to help to manage your emotions. Talk to a doctor or a therapist.
Negative thoughts can be multiple ideas. An example you have imposter syndrome, you feel like a failure or if you think about something negative will happen because you essentially are manifesting it in your life. The more you think negatively the chances of whatever you are thinking will come true. It is best to rewire my mind. These thoughts should fade as your situation changes. But if they become overwhelming, you could have depression or anxiety. Talk to a mental health professional about how to control your symptoms.
However, science teaches us that In 1949, psychologist Donald Hebb laid out his compelling “assembly theory” of how the brain achieves this feat. It is best summarized by the mantra “neurons that fire together wire together.” Meaning what we reap is what we sow in other words if we continually think negatively eventually what we are thinking will happen. The idea is that neurons responding to the same stimulus connect preferentially to form “neuronal ensembles.”
What You Can Do
The best way to heal is to learn about the brain and our thoughts, learning about our conscious mind and our subconscious mind helps us understand the supercomputers we have (brain), yet, we only use a total of 5% of our entire human mind Keeping ourselves busy and distracting ourselves is a strategy to heal.
At the end of the day, most intrusive thoughts are just thoughts.
The only time they become a red flag or a signal that you actually want to do the disturbing things you’re thinking about is when you feel you are no longer in control.
If they bother you, you can take steps to cut down on their frequency and intensity.
- Evaluate your life and what is troubling you.
- Recognize your thoughts and label them for what they are.
- Distract yourself from your thoughts, watch a movie, read a book or do some scripting and write your thoughts down on paper in a journal or online.
- Release the tension and share your thoughts with others. (There are groups and forums you can join or if your thoughts are overwhelming contact a professional like your doctor or phone the Samaritans.
- Accept that they will pass eventually.
- Listen to empowering motivational speakers like Jake Ducey or Dr. Caroline Leaf. Check them out on YouTube.
- Give yourself time for the intrusive thoughts to fade away.
- Be prepared for your unwanted thoughts to come back.
- Learn about your mind and neuroplasticity and how your thoughts can be controlled.
- Do not act or engage in dangerous thoughts, for example hurting yourself or someone else.
- Do not be too hard on yourself. Try to question yourself and why you’re having them in the first place.
- Do not just do nothing in the hope your thoughts will go away. Often distracting yourself from a situation will get your mind occupied with other things and your thoughts become suppressed.
Related Mental Health Disorders.
Sometimes, thoughts go beyond being intrusive.
Related mental health disorders associated with repetitive unwanted intrusive thoughts, could be a sign of OCD. This type of anxiety disorder causes the sufferer to have recurring, unwanted thoughts that they may not be able to control. This may be the compulsion to repeat certain behaviors or actions over and over again.
In contrast, delusional paranoid thoughts, such as thinking someone is always watching you or wants to hurt you, can be a sign of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
If you have these thoughts, talk to a psychiatrist for diagnosis and treatment options.
When to Get Help
If your intrusive thoughts become unmanageable and start to take over your life, you need to seek professional help or as I am doing am learning online, keeping myself busy all the time, and doing extensive research. I will not claim to be the next Paul Mckenna of this world and one day I would like to meet him, but I do believe hypnotherapy and meditation play an important part in the healing process. The issue with hypnotherapy and meditation is you have to keep at it, you cannot just do it once and expect miracles it does not work like that.
Although I have completed my Hypnotherapy Diploma and have hypnotized myself I have not done it enough times to actually see much of a difference hence I re-iterate that you need to be consistent with it.
The way I deal with intrusive thoughts is by scripting and using my online journal. I feel much better after I have released my energy and often anger either on paper or mostly online.
If you are finding life too difficult to bear and you are getting contact with intrusive dangerous thoughts, contact your Doctor or Emergency Services.
A doctor may refer you to a behavioral therapist, psychologist, social worker, or psychiatrist for further diagnosis and treatment.
Personally, for me, this is my own process of healing, learning, and passing my knowledge to others.
“An Investment In Knowledge Pays The Best Interest” – by Benjamin Fraklin
Remember we have a useful links page and depending on where you are in the world you have your Doctor you can contact or emergency services (112) this is the international number. In the UK we have (999) and for nonurgent (111).
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