Do bizarre and troubling thoughts or images often randomly pop into your mind? Are these thoughts violent, terrifying, or inappropriate? If this is the case, you might be experiencing intrusive thoughts. The good news is that you’re not alone. Research found that 94% of people experience unwanted, intrusive thoughts. These thoughts, images, or compulsions are extremely difficult to overcome.
In this article, we’ll explore what intrusive thoughts are, what causes them, and strategies to help you manage them.
What Are Intrusive Thoughts?
Intrusive thoughts are thoughts that suddenly appear and consume your consciousness. These thoughts may be strange, concerning, or embarrassing, but they are always unwanted. Despite your best efforts, it feels impossible to control or push away these repetitive thoughts. If these thoughts are particularly persistent and beginning to interfere with your everyday life, they might be associated with a mental health disorder.
What Causes Intrusive Thoughts?
In most cases, intrusive thoughts are just thoughts. They appear inexplicably and disappear on their own eventually. They’re neither a warning nor a sign that you’re going to act out on them. It’s possible that these thoughts, as several psychologists suggest, are simply our mind’s way of spewing out meaningless junk that we would never want to act upon.
On the other hand, some psychologists suggest that these unwelcome thoughts are caused by difficult circumstances in your life. Any stressful or anxious changes in your life might also increase the likelihood of these thoughts appearing in your mind. “If something is off about your life, it’s easy to fall prey to overwhelming thoughts,” explains David Zuniga, a psychology writer at Draft Beyond. “When you’re struggling with work, a relationship, or another aspect of your life, intrusive thoughts might pop out of nowhere.”
However, for some people, intrusive thoughts are caused by a mental health disorder. They can be a symptom of OCD, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or ADHD. To determine whether this is the case, it’s important to seek professional help.
5 Tips On How To Manage Intrusive Thoughts
While it may feel impossible at first, you can mitigate the impact and reduce the frequency of these disturbing and unwanted thoughts in your life. Here are a couple of strategies to try.
Seek Professional Treatment
Therapy is the best solution to help you manage any alarming or violent thoughts that refuse to leave you alone. A professional can diagnose if these thoughts are a symptom of a mental health disorder, and provide the appropriate treatment to stop them.
Many therapists typically use cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help you manage unwanted thoughts. By discussing these thoughts with a therapist, you can release any shame, fear, or any other underlying emotions that come up each time these upsetting thoughts emerge. Your therapist can also help you identify what triggers these thoughts and how to cultivate a healthier response to those triggers.
If your intrusive thoughts are a symptom of a mental health disorder, your therapist can prescribe medication to help you manage these thoughts along with other symptoms.
In the event that your distressing thoughts are caused by a sudden and stressful event in your life, self-care is more vital than ever. “We often forget to take of ourselves under severe stress,” according to Lakendra Lewis, a lifestyle blogger at Writinity and Research papers UK. “By caring for your needs, you give yourself the best chance to cope with stress and handle any intrusive thoughts that come up.”
By now, most of us are aware of the endless benefits of practicing mindfulness. Training your mind to release negative thoughts and focus on the present moment might make it easier to manage intrusive thoughts. Meditation can also help you handle stress better which in turn, reduces the risk of intrusive thoughts appearing.
Exercising is another fantastic way to get yourself out of your head. Moving your body can provide relief from any unwanted, recurring thoughts. Exercise also helps mitigate the symptoms of other mental health disorders.
Turn To Your Social Circle For Support
Some psychologists believe that isolation can increase the likelihood of intrusive thoughts. To combat this, seek support from your partner, family, and friends. It’s highly likely that they too are either experiencing intrusive thoughts or have experienced it in the past.
Intrusive thoughts are often simply thoughts. Everyone experiences them from time to time. However, if your unwanted thoughts are severely affecting the quality of your life, it’s a good idea to seek professional help.
Eileen Harrison is an editor and professional essay writer for Coursework writing service and Lucky Assignments Oxford with a passion of for mental health. She writes articles on rumination, mindfulness, and other mental health strategies for Gum Essays.