Are Intrusive Thoughts Affecting You? Here’s What You Need To Know

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Intrusive thoughts live in our head rent-free. They are more than often fearful and disturbing. No matter how hard we try to remove them from our mind, they keep recurring again. These are bizarre and unwanted thoughts that are stuck in our minds and cause great distress. These unwanted thoughts are known as intrusive thoughts. 

What are intrusive thoughts?

Intrusive thoughts are disturbing thoughts that seem to stick in your mind for a prolonged period of time. These thoughts are mostly distressful and arise anxiety in a person since the nature of these intrusive thoughts is painful and upsetting. These thoughts recur frequently which can eventually worsen the anxiety.

These thoughts seem to return from out of nowhere, arrive with a wheeze, and cause an enormous deal of hysteria and panic. These intrusive unwanted thoughts often focus on sexual or violent or socially unacceptable images. People who experience unwanted intrusive thoughts frequently are afraid that they can commit the acts they picture in their mind. They also fear that the thoughts mean something terrible about them or what they can become in the future. 

Some unwanted intrusive thoughts contain repetitive doubts about relationships, decisions small as well as important, sexual orientation or identity, intrusions of thoughts about safety, religion, death or worries about questions that cannot be answered with certainty. Sometimes these are simply weird thoughts that make no apparent sense. Unwanted Intrusive thoughts are often very explicit, and lots of people are ashamed and worried about them, and thus keep them secret.

However, the intrusive thoughts are harmless as long as they are recognised as mere thoughts only and does not affect your day to day actions. If you find yourself fixating over these unwanted thoughts and desire to act upon them, we suggest you check in with a psychotherapist. 

Why do Intrusive thoughts happen?

Intrusive thoughts are mostly by-products of other medical conditions like severe anxiety disorder or, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It is often a major symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Bipolar Disorder, or, Attention Deficit-Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) or, psychosis.

What are the different types of intrusive thoughts?

Listed below are some intrusive thoughts examples

  • Thinking about self-harming or harming somebody else

Intrusive thoughts can be violent sometimes. The patients of intrusive unwanted thoughts may think of hurting themselves or others. Although usually there is no intent behind it, these thoughts randomly pop in one’s head. It causes a great deal of anxiety and the patient may fear that they might end up hurting themselves or someone else. 

This is a very common symptom of anxiety disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). New mothers experiencing post-partum disorder may also have thoughts about harming their baby even when they do not intend to.

However, if you do have such intrusive thoughts and is having trouble controlling the aggression, emotion management is suggested. If you are thinking about self-harming, we urge you to contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 9152987821 (iCall).

  • Intrusive sexual thoughts

It is common human behaviour, irrespective of gender, to think about sex (unless you are asexual, which is also a normal sexual orientation.) However, society has stigmatized sex to such an extent that we often feel ashamed of our basic libido. Intrusive sexual thoughts can often make one feel bad about themselves, making them think they might be bad people. 

In such a case, one must remember that these are simply thoughts and should try not to fixate on it. To question one’s gender and sexuality is quite normal even though it can be stressful.

  • Delusional thoughts

Frequent delusional thoughts, which are bizarre and paranoid is a basic symptom of psychosis. Psychosis is a mental health condition where one finds it difficult to accept the reality. For example, you might fear that someone is trying to harm you or poison you. If this condition worsens, one may even start seeing or hearing things that no one else does. Psychosis can lead to schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Sometimes, the action of drugs may also cause psychosis.

  • Negative self-talk

Negative thoughts about oneself is a basic sign of depression. These thoughts lead to conversations with oneself which are often degrading. A person suffering from acute depression may be seen stuck on thoughts like, “I am a loser.”, “I mean nothing to others. Nobody cares for me.”, “I am incompetent” and similar conversations. The intent behind these self-degrading conversations can be strong and these intrusive thoughts may start appearing as facts.

These are just a few examples of intrusive thoughts. Any unpleasant thought that may cause a fixation can be termed as intrusive.

Intrusive Thoughts: Treatment

Intrusive thoughts can be treated either by therapy or hypnosis or through medication. 

Medication

Medicines approved for the treatment of OCD, ADHD or Depression can treat the intrusive thoughts from recurring. Antidepressants like Clomipramine, Fluoxetine, Paroxetine can help ease out intrusive thoughts. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Many patients do not wish to take medication due to its side-effects. In such cases, doctors suggest Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT. It helps the patients to strategise situations and manage their unwanted and negative feelings and thoughts. CBT is an extremely effective method to get rid of intrusive thoughts. 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a form of CBT that specifically focuses on accepting your own thoughts and feelings for what they are and try to modify them. Acceptance, along with mindfulness helps in developing more flexible thinking. It helps the sufferers to accept these unwanted intrusive thoughts without giving them much importance to fixate their mind on it. 

Hypnosis

Although the action of hypnosis to resist intrusive thoughts is not as robust as the action of medicine and therapy, it is used to treat patients with OCD.

Myths about Intrusive Thoughts

  • We can control how we think.
  • Our characters are decided by the way we think.
  • Our inner selves are indicated by the way we think.
  • Intrusive thoughts can affect our actions.
  • Thoughts that keep recurring indicate something important about to take place.
  • Repetitive thoughts about something indicate that it is unlikely to happen.
  • Recurring thoughts are a product of the supernatural.