Obsessive, intrusive thoughts are unwanted images, urges, or impulses that come out of nowhere and can make you feel scared, humiliated, or disgusted. These distressing thoughts are most commonly associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) but are also seen amongst various other anxiety disorders.
More than six million people in the United States suffer from intrusive thoughts. However, the majority do not report them to their doctors or counselors.
Intrusive thoughts can cause unnecessary stress on top of normal, everyday stressors at home, work, or school. While you cannot stop them from appearing, you can stop them from bothering you. Learning how to develop effective coping strategies can help lessen intrusive thoughts and their negative outcomes over time.
What Do Intrusive Thoughts Look Like?
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), the exact cause of intrusive thoughts is unknown. However, researchers believe genetics, biological factors, and childhood trauma play a significant role.
Intrusive thoughts vary depending on the type of anxiety a person experiences. Common types of intrusive thoughts include:
- Intense fear of harming oneself or others
- Fear of committing a sin or blasphemous behavior one may be ashamed of
- Fear of contamination and germs
- Fear of acting on an undesirable impulse like steering off the road
- Inappropriate sexual thoughts
- Negative self-talk
While a majority of people experience common intrusive thoughts, some people are more affected by them. Intrusive thoughts brought on by complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or OCD can wreak havoc on someone’s life. When intrusive thoughts occur as a result of an underlying mental health disorder, they can result in disturbances that are hard to manage.
Overcoming Intrusive Thoughts
Learning how to overcome intrusive thoughts is crucial for those whose thoughts negatively affect their everyday life. Some common ways to overcome intrusive thoughts include:
#1. Call Thoughts Out and Identify Patterns Leading to Triggers
Once you acknowledge that you are experiencing an intrusive thought, it may be helpful to start journaling in order to understand patterns over time. Add notes about your day such as your moods, what you ate, amount of free time, what you watched, etc. Eventually, this could help you determine the root cause of these thoughts.
Once you notice a pattern, you can stop doing whatever it is that triggers you. If you notice these thoughts happening at a specific time of day, you can develop hobbies that keep you occupied instead.
One of the worst things you can do is attempt to suppress the thought. Did you know the more you try not to think about something, the more it sticks around? Once you master identifying the triggers or accept you’re experiencing an intrusive thought, let the thought pass freely and trust that it’ll be over soon. The key is to not let them consume you.
#2. Know It’s Not Your Fault
It is crucial to remember that you are not the cause of your intrusive thoughts, whether you believe it or not. Intrusive thoughts can make anyone second guess themselves. They may be thinking, “Where did this thought come from? Will I act out on this thought?” The fear that you may do something impulsive as a result of intrusive thoughts can be distressing, but understanding intrusive thoughts are not your fault can help you move forward.
There is often no meaning behind your intrusive thoughts, and they are not a sign of what’s to come. Intrusive thoughts are just that – thoughts. Even if you feel upset or horrified over the thought you are having, it’s important to remember that you are not your thoughts.
#4. Make a Positive Change
Implementing a lifestyle that you know will make you feel good and lead to healthy, consistent habits can help you overcome your intrusive thoughts. You can work towards developing a more nutritious diet, get outdoors more, practice yoga and meditation, read non-triggering novels, journal, and more. Once you notice when your thoughts more likely appear, try avoiding them by keeping yourself busy with one of these activities.
#5. Talk It Out and Consider Professional Help
Many people feel ashamed to admit they have intrusive thoughts. They may believe that others will view them negatively and believe they will act out on the thoughts they are having. As a result, many people try to deal with intrusive thoughts on their own and keep them hidden from others.
However, talking about intrusive thoughts with someone you trust can be highly beneficial in working towards overcoming your intrusive thoughts. Talk your intrusive thoughts out with someone you trust by being open and vulnerable about how you’re feeling.
If you are worried about talking about your intrusive thoughts with someone who is close to you, you may want to consider therapy. A therapist can help you develop the tools needed to overcome intrusive thoughts.
Intrusive thoughts can impact your quality of life. These thoughts are unwanted and disturbing and often do not reflect the person you truly are. It’s important to remember you are not alone. Having intrusive thoughts does not mean you are a bad person. If you are experiencing intrusive thoughts and believe they may be a result of an underlying mental health disorder, we at Achieve Concierge are here to help you. We are prepared to assist you in regaining control over your thoughts and assuring you it is not your fault. Our team can create a unique treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. Our Premier Members enjoy an array of special conveniences and services, which enhance the treatment experience, including same-day or next-day appointments, direct access to the doctors, extended appointment times, and more. Take the first step towards overcoming intrusive thoughts with Achieve Concierge. Call us today at (858) 221-0344.