What is an Intrusive Thought?
An intrusive thought is a thought or image that pops into mind on a frequent, uncontrolled basis causing us distress, frustration, or upset. The intrusive thought could be anything that disturbs you, such as losing control, making a mistake, health worry, or unsettling thoughts about others. It is as if the more you try to block the thought or image out the more it comes back to haunt you.
Frequently, in response to an intrusive thought, a person is making a critical judgement about themselves for having the thought or image. The person may assume certain meanings for having the thought, such as that the thought indicates an inner failing or inability to assert control over ones mind. The person will continually interpret the presence of this thought as meaning something catastrophic or shameful about them as a person. Since intrusive thoughts are so uncomfortable to experience, the person will try many strategies to suppress their contact with the thought. Soon it appears as if the person’s mind is the enemy and they are in battle. People with intrusive thoughts often wonder “why is it me having these mad thoughts”? and assume “It’s not normal to have these thoughts”.
How to help yourself:
The problem is not having the thought – it is your response or interpretation of the thought that results in the distress.
Avoiding or suppressing the thoughts just keeps it fuelled and does not help in the long-term. Burying thoughts or images just leads them to rebound.
Let go of your myths about thoughts. Reflect on these: 1) Everyone has crazy and disturbing thoughts and images every day; 2) Thoughts do not have to mean anything about you, the future, or reality – they are just mental events. Just because you think something it does not mean it will happen or is an indication of who you really are.
Bring your thoughts into a realistic, rational, and balanced perspective.intrusive thoughts 2
Treat your thoughts as just mental events floating in and out, you can choose whether you believe them or hook onto them. Try to observe and notice your thoughts in a neutral way without adding any unnecessary meaning to them. Do not will them to go, allow their presence, and you will find over time they will fade.
You are not your thoughts – you are so much more.
Work on other aspects of your life, build your confidence up again – you have probably been diminished by your fight with and belief of the intrusive thoughts.
Put down the shield and do other positive things – e.g. attending to relationships, exercise, doing something fun, make a list about your attributes etc, whatever helps.
The suggestions listed above are just some of the ways that you can help yourself to deal and manage any Intrusive Thoughts which you may be encountering. However if you would like to seek professional help if intrusive thoughts are distressing you please get in contact with us and we can help you.