Unwanted Intrusions: What are Intrusive Thoughts and What Do They Mean?

Have you ever been out with friends? Maybe you’re reminiscing, sharing some laughs over dinner. Suddenly, for no reason whatsoever, a thought enters your head: “I could flip this table over right now. I could ruin dinner for everyone and make a huge scene.”

You don’t do it, and you never would, but the thought is suddenly there, and it weighs on your mind for a brief moment before leaving as quickly as it came. What gives? Just a moment ago, you were having a good time, and now you suddenly have the urge to lash out. While you may be worried, it’s essential to remember that these thoughts are common and do not always indicate a more significant problem.

Some Types of Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts can be highly distressing. They can be mild and fleeting, a self-critical insult like “You can’t wear that, you would look stupid.” Or “Why did you even come here? No one likes you anyway. Just go home.” Often, intrusive thoughts can border on sudden, violent flashes like imagining a car accident while driving. It is estimated that over six million Americans struggle with distressing, frightening intrusive thoughts that can spiral into panic attacks if left unchecked.

Understanding Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts may be something you rarely experience, or they may be a common occurrence. They can come at any time and be gone just as quickly, or they can linger over time, causing distress and discomfort. The causes of intrusive thoughts are not well understood, but these types of thoughts are commonly found in people with PTSD and OCD.

A common misconception about intrusive thoughts is that you feel them because you, on some deeper level, want to act out on them. However, this is counterintuitive thinking. What makes these types of thoughts “intrusive” is proof that we don’t want to act out on them. We understand that these thoughts are caustic and antithetical to who we are as people, so how could we want to act out on them if we are repulsed by their presence? A violent intrusive thought doesn’t make you violent, and an insecure intrusive thought doesn’t mean that you aren’t loved by the people around you.

How Intrusive Thoughts “Stick”

When you experience an intrusive thought, your intuitive response may be to dwell on it, try to understand why you feel it, isolate its origins, etc. Unfortunately, this knee jerk response can exacerbate the panic caused by intrusive thoughts.

Your thoughts are not always indicative of who you are as a person. Your thoughts and who you are at your core can be mutually exclusive, and sometimes, can be at odds with one another. In the case of intrusive thoughts, many times, the things that may pop into our heads are unimportant, irrelevant, and not worth reflecting on.

Intrusive Thoughts and Conscious Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts exist without you bringing them into existence, meaning you are not responsible for them. They are not on par with remembering your grocery list, remembering to get gas before work, or deciding to go for a run after a long day of work. These are decisions that we consciously make.

Intrusive thoughts are merely unwanted, unimportant occurrences that do not need to be dissected and mulled over every single time that you experience one. It is easy to try and “shove” the intrusive thoughts out of your mind, which can cause them to stick and linger. You may also feel that these intrusive thoughts are too disturbing or unnatural, and thus you may feel compelled to keep them as secrets. However, keeping intrusive thoughts as secrets can also exacerbate the issue and cause you more distress down the road.

Compartmentalizing Your Thoughts

When struggling with intrusive thoughts, it is essential to remind yourself that these types of thoughts are common, and your immediate rejection and dismissal of them is proof that these thoughts are not indicative of who you are as a person. Understand that, like a flat tire or catching a cold, intrusive thought are bound to happen.

Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies, and in the process, we try to hyper-fixate on these thoughts in an attempt to rid ourselves of them. Intrusive thoughts are going to happen, but they do not define you or your character. The decisions that we accept as parts of our lives are drastically different from intrusive thoughts.

By compartmentalizing your thoughts and accepting that intrusive thoughts are a part of being human, you can set yourself up for success in the future when those intrusive thoughts inevitably come back.

Many people suffer from intrusive thoughts. They are distressing, confusing, and frustrating, but they are nothing to be worried about. They can, however, sometimes be indicative of other underlying mental health disorders that may be unresolved. Chronic intrusive thoughts that may plague your day-to-day life can stem from past traumatic experiences, depression, anxiety, and other problems that sometimes require outside help. Don’t put off talking to a professional. At Achieve Concierge, our team of professionals and experts are here to assist our members in identifying the causes of intrusive thoughts and how to remedy them through cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication. We specialize in a holistic, collaborative approach to treating a variety of mental health conditions. Achieve Concierge is committed to providing the highest level of mental wellness care with personalized service that is second to none. To learn more about the services we provide, call Achieve Concierge today at (619) 393-5871.

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