How To Deal With Intrusive Thoughts : 6 Effective Ways
February 28, 2023
Table of Contents
Overwhelming intrusive thoughts can be incredibly draining and stressful. When these negative ideas consume your mind, it’s hard to ignore them or break away from the cycle of ruminating on those same damaging ideals.
But that doesn’t have to be the case! Knowing how our minds work and understanding which strategies we can use when facing unwanted intrusions is paramount in cultivating a healthier mental mindset.
In this article, you’ll gain insight into how exactly to take control over frustrating intrusive thought patterns for good so you’re able live life without being constantly bogged down by negativity.
What Are Intrusive Thoughts?
Our minds can be a mysterious and unpredictable place, full of intrusive thoughts that often come without warning. It is easy to become overwhelmed by these sudden anxieties.
From worries about the past or concerns for our future selves to feelings of doubt in oneself or others. Despite any guarantees we may hear, there remains an ongoing battle between trying to control our emotions while simultaneously rising above the chaotic cycle of intruding ideas playing on repeat inside us.
Consequently, it takes immense effort just as much as strength even more so sometimes -to regulate such overwhelming overriding sentiments swirling around within one’s being!
What Causes Intrusive Thoughts?
These are experiences that cause us stress and anxiety, often arising from situations in our life or our past. They can manifest as repetitive worries about health, safety, embarrassing scenarios or fears of losing control.
Though intrusive thoughts may feel more intense than regular thinking patterns, it’s important to remember that they are just that – thoughts. These unwelcome intrusions don’t necessarily reflect what we actually think, feel and believe in reality.
The exact causes remain unclear. However there are few theories on why these experiences occur and what could trigger them in the first place.
One potential factor is anxiety, which can cause an overactive mind leading to persistent worrying and intrusive thoughts. Stressful life events such as trauma or major changes can also be related to the onset of this type of mental activity.
Other potential explanations include genetic disposition, psychological state and nutritional habits. Suggesting that certain individuals might be more predisposed towards having intrusive thoughts than others.
It’s also possible to experience increased levels of intrusive thoughts during hormone changes associated with puberty or menopause which can further contribute to the intensity of these episodes!
These unwanted intrusive thoughts are unpleasant yet normal experiences that all human beings face at some point in their lives.
By understanding why these types of occurrences happen and learning how to manage them through different coping strategies. We’ll be able to gain greater control over our thought process allowing us breath easier during moments of distress!
What Makes Intrusive Thoughts Harmful?
Our minds are incredibly powerful, and the ideas we entertain can profoundly shape our actions and choices. Oftentimes intrusive thoughts arise that spark feelings of doubt or confusion.
But how do you distinguish which ones should be addressed? The answer is to act responsibly regardless of any passing thought that appears in your head, without relying on these musings as a source for truth!
Instead, take some time to consciously consider each one before investing your energy into it.
This way you’ll make more informed decisions about what will guide the course of life.
How Do You Know If Your Thoughts Are Intrusive?
Unwanted, negative thoughts can be powerful and intrusive – it’s important to recognize them before they prevent you from living up to your potential.
If these pessimistic thought patterns are based in anxieties or concerns that have been with us a while, make the effort now to rid yourself of their hold over you so that brighter times might soon lay ahead!
Intrusive Thoughts And Other Mental Health Issues
Everyone experiences intrusive thoughts from time to time, but if these worries become ongoing or the same thought keeps coming up it could be a sign of an underlying mental health issue.
Relationships Of Intrusive Thoughts
Below are the relationships to six of the disorders in which such thoughts are a common symptom:
Intrusive Thoughts and Anxiety
Those with OCD suffer through intensely vivid and unacceptable intrusive thoughts, while people facing anxiety are prone to become bogged down in tamer but still unwelcome thought-cycles.
Those dealing with GAD may obsess over the safety of a family member or experience increased stress levels as a result.
Social anxiety sufferers can find it almost impossible to shake off memories of embarrassing moments they’ve lived through, further marring their day-to-day life experiences.
For an individual struggling with anxiety, the sudden appearance of a distressing thought can be like a siren song.
Instead of ignoring it and letting it pass, they often give too much credence to this unwelcome intruder by expending considerable energy trying to erase or suppress it. Unfortunately, such efforts tend only make things worse in the long run (Seif & Winston 2018).
Intrusive Thoughts and OCD
People with OCD often find themselves haunted by persistent and unwanted thoughts.
This can lead to a disproportionate level of scrutiny placed upon their own minds, resulting in the false belief that they must manage these musings one way or another. Most likely through avoidance tactics or validation from external sources.
Though we all experience bad thoughts from time to time, those with OCD are particularly affected by them.
While the majority of people can brush off these fleeting moments as something they do not need to worry about and move on without much fuss, sufferers of this condition take it a step further.
Their responses lead to significant distress and difficulty in daily life (Kissen, 2017). By delving into the nuances that make someone living with OCD so different when compared against others who pass through similar experiences but have no issues dealing with them.
Dr. Debra Kissen has been able provide help and treatment for many over her years dedicated service towards anxiety disorder research.
Intrusive Thoughts and Depression
Those struggling with depression may experience intrusive thoughts similar to those associated with anxiety and OCD, often leading them down a path of rumination.
It’s almost like their mind is stuck on an endless loop, chasing after the same thought in relentless pursuit for resolution – but never finding it (Smith, 2017).
Intrusive Thoughts Examples
Constantly looking at life in a tunnel-vision approach of only two perspectives can be detrimental to our growth and understanding.
Paint a gloomy picture of the future, always expecting something to go wrong and overlooking potential positive outcomes.
Endlessly reflecting over the same disappointment and allowing it to lead them down an anxiety-filled path.
Get stuck in a loop of rumination and lose sight of the bigger picture.
Making assumptions about intentions based solely on guesswork.
Believing that life follows a predetermined course, many accept bad outcomes as immutable destiny.
Constantly amplifying the smallest issues and inflating them as major affronts.
Not examining the own beliefs and not questioning.
We can become ensnared in a prison of our own thoughts, believing that we must atone for events beyond our control and expecting the worst to happen. However, it is important to remember that these are merely assumptions – they do not reflect actuality or reality.
Intrusive Thoughts and PTSD
Individuals with PTSD are often plagued by intrusive memories from their past. These recollections tend to be related to the traumatic incident and can cause immense distress for those affected.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that traps individuals in the past – often with devastating consequences.
It can be difficult to move on from traumatic experiences, as our brains are constantly replaying them through memories, flashbacks and nightmares.
Those who suffer from PTSD may experience physical sensations connected with those moments of trauma which makes it all the more challenging for them to break away.
They become fixated on these occurrences living in a state of high alert fight or flight mode brought about by their own internal hormones flooding within their bodies.
We must recognize how hard it is for people suffering this disorder hope they will find relief soon. So we can be free together once again and leave traumatizing memories behind us forevermore!
Intrusive Thoughts and Bipolar Disorder
For up to one-fifth of those living with bipolar disorder, intrusive and obsessive thoughts can be a persistent struggle. From racing worries that interrupt sleep patterns to compulsive pondering, these disruptively recurrent reflections greatly impact quality of life (Flanigan, 2017).
For those with bipolar disorder, obsessing over a new fixation can be an all-too familiar habit. Each week (or even daily!) they become drawn into this “mental hamster wheel” of thought and anxiety.
Tthat takes away from their concentration abilities while potentially leading to unhealthy or unhelpful actions, robbing them of quality and restorative sleep.
Intrusive Thoughts and ADHD
While ADHD is often associated with difficulty concentrating, recent research has revealed that it can additionally be linked to troubling thought patterns.
A study conducted by Abramaovitch and Schweiger (2009) found those living with the condition experience more worrisome repeated thoughts than non-ADHD individuals – creating a higher level of stress or anxiety for them as well.
How Long Do Intrusive Thoughts Last?
The duration greatly vary depending on the individual and the situation. Generally speaking, these thoughts can come up quickly and unexpectedly.
Lasting anywhere from few seconds to several minutes before dissipating. It’s important to note however that the moment-to-moment experience of intrusive thoughts can feel much longer due to how intense they can be!
It’s also important to note that the frequency and intensity of intrusive thoughts can depend on a variety of factors such as stress level, psychological state or even nutritional habits.
Making it important for practitioners to assess their personal needs in order to determine what strategies will work best for them!
6 Ways How To Stop Intrusive Thoughts
If you wish to break free from the cycle that can race around in your mind, mastering methods for curbing this detrimental behavior is key. Here are some strategies that could help keep it at bay.
Face your problems
The shadows of the past still haunt some people, and not confronting them can bring on oppressive ideas.
Trying to avoid a disagreeable experience or an unpleasant childhood that may be causing emotional pain makes it easy for irrational reflections to develop – but instead, courageously facing your traumas is key!
It’s important to recognize that it takes hard work and bravery right now in order to eliminate those recurring musings once and for all.
Separate rational from irrational thoughts
To be in control of your own mental space, it is important to cultivate the ability to differentiate between helpful and unhelpful thinking.
Logical thought stems from ideas that are backed by facts and evidence rather than fear-based doubts or mistrust, being able to detect when a certain idea does not make sense gives you more power over how you choose to respond.
For example, if an intrusive voice begins telling you something about yourself which contradicts reality – like “you’re worthless” – then instead of believing it immediately, give yourself permission for this untrue notion simply drift away!
Incorporate more gratitude into your life
Instead of reflecting on all the negative aspects in life, you can be grateful and find joy for what is already yours.
Recognizing how much we have to appreciate allows us to move past any feelings weighing us down like anger, disappointment or fear. Replacing those with a more positive outlook enables one’s interpretation of reality, making it possible to live an optimistic life!
Change your mindset
Your attitude and outlook determine the course of your life. To be successful, you must change how you think about yourself and revise any limiting beliefs that are holding you back from achieving great things.
Instead of allowing negative thoughts to take over, challenge them with optimism! When faced with difficulty or trauma, remain hopeful – because it is this mindset that allows us to rise above our shortcomings and live a fulfilling existence.
Incorporate healthy habits
Struggling with intrusive thoughts? Why not try adding healthy habits to your daily routine. Exercise doesn’t just have physical benefits, but it can also help keep negative thinking at bay and allow for greater clarity of mind.
Likewise, meditation is an effective way of helping you stay focused and in control – a great tool for beating those troubling ideas! You don’t need to go all-in straight away; start small by introducing one or two activities that could make life easier long term.
Create an anxiety journal
Keeping track of worrisome thoughts can be hugely beneficial in maintaining a healthy state of mind. Writing down all the anxious musings and ideas, both logical and nonsensical gives us an opportunity to acknowledge them.
Without having to validate their accuracy or worry about ruminating on them disruptively. Not only does it allow for exploration into the cause of irrational beliefs, but also serves as a tool to predict potential reactions before they happen – particularly when rooted from prior trauma!
Books On How To Stop Intrusive Thoughts
“Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts: A CBT-Based Guide to Getting Over Frightening, Obsessive, or Disturbing Thoughts” by Sally Winston and Martin Seif – This book provides a comprehensive guide for individuals struggling with intrusive thoughts, offering practical strategies and exercises based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to manage anxiety and fear.
“The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD: A Guide to Overcoming Obsessions and Compulsions Using Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” by Jon Hershfield and Tom Corboy – This workbook provides mindfulness techniques and CBT tools to help individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) understand and manage their thoughts, emotions, and compulsions.
“The Imp of the Mind: Exploring the Silent Epidemic of Obsessive Bad Thoughts” by Lee Baer – In this book, Baer describes the common phenomenon of intrusive thoughts and provides practical advice and strategies for managing them, drawing on his own experiences and those of his patients.
“Brain Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior” by Jeffrey Schwartz – This book offers a four-step program based on CBT and mindfulness to help individuals with OCD overcome their unwanted thoughts and compulsions and improve their overall mental health.
“The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment” by Eckhart Tolle – This classic self-help book encourages readers to live in the present moment and let go of negative thoughts and emotions, offering insights and techniques for achieving greater inner peace and happiness.
“Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Personalized Recovery Program for Living with Uncertainty” by Jonathan Grayson – In this book, Grayson offers a comprehensive treatment program for individuals with OCD, combining CBT techniques with exposure therapy to help them overcome their fears and compulsions.
“The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living” by Russ Harris – This book offers a practical guide to mindfulness and acceptance-based therapy, providing tools and exercises for individuals to overcome negative thoughts and emotions and find greater happiness and fulfillment.
“The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook” by Edmund Bourne – This workbook offers practical tools and exercises for managing anxiety and phobias, including techniques for managing intrusive thoughts, managing stress, and improving overall mental health.
“The OCD Workbook: Your Guide to Breaking Free from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder” by Bruce Hyman and Cherry Pedrick – This workbook provides a comprehensive guide for individuals with OCD, offering CBT-based techniques and exercises to help them manage their symptoms and improve their overall mental health.
“Rewire Your Anxious Brain: How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic, and Worry” by Catherine M. Pittman and Elizabeth M. Karle – This book offers insights and tools based on neuroscience and CBT to help individuals overcome anxiety and panic disorders, including techniques for managing intrusive thoughts and reducing stress.
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