Are Intrusive Thoughts Sabotaging Your Mental Health? Here’s How To Manage Them

By Jenna Cullman··  4 min read
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Have you ever been driving down the road and experienced the sudden urge to crash your car? Intrusive thoughts are more common than people would like to admit. They can rob you of your mental health and put your life on standby. How can we calm these disturbing thoughts and take back control of our lives?

Having an odd or disturbing thought on occasion is normal, but what if they keep occurring? These can be common, like doing something you know is risky, dangerous, or straight-up sinister. Intrusive thoughts aren’t often shared, since the subject matter often leads to feelings of shame or disgust from the recipient. So how do we know the difference between “normal” intrusive thoughts and abnormal, harmful thoughts?

Types of Intrusive Thoughts 

What are intrusive thoughts exactly, you may ask? They can be explained as thoughts that are disturbing by nature and out of character. This can include thoughts about harming yourself and others, social embarrassment, fear of messing up, sexual acts, or fear of germs and infections. For many, these thoughts come and go, rearing their ugly head only once in a while, but never truly pose a threat. 

But some people experience intrusive thoughts on a chronic level. Extreme cases are often combined with other mental disorders. Although intrusive thoughts aren’t always a sign of an underlying condition, sometimes they overlap with other mental disorders, like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD is strongly connected to intrusive thoughts, as both have the symptom of repetitive unprompted thoughts. 

Intrusive thoughts aren’t always a sign of an underlying condition, but they can overlap with other mental disorders.

High amounts of stress, anxiety, or a traumatic event can manifest as invasive thinking caused by post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). PSTD triggers painful memories from your past which manifest as intrusive thoughts, a form of anxiety. Or, let’s say you had or are currently suffering from an eating disorder; you probably have experienced negative thoughts about your body. Intrusive thoughts can spark fear and shame around food and trigger a warped body image.      

When Should I Look into Getting Help?

On a more serious level, intrusive thoughts can plague your mind and eventually lead to a mental breakdown. If these spells of intrusive thoughts last longer than a brief moment or cause distress, or you have reoccurring harmful thoughts that involve harming others or yourself, this is a sign that you may need professional help. Never be ashamed of asking for help. A psychologist can you help you find the root of your problem and regain mental control. 

When something prevents you from working and accomplishing everyday tasks, it has taken sovereignty over you and your life. Receiving help is pivotal when this happens. Try concentrating on self-care and natural forms of healing such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), where you would be working with a licensed therapist on desensitizing you to triggers and creating ways to respond when unwanted thoughts surface.

We can’t control every thought that pops into our heads, but we can control how we react to them.

Take Your Thoughts Captive

Thoughts are just thoughts at the end of the day, but if you stoke the flames by giving them attention, it only makes the fire more intense. By smothering those thoughts, you are disassociating yourself from their grasp. Simply view them as mental imposers and not the prediction of your future actions. Don’t make a big deal out of something that you know is not aligned with your actual desires. A bad thought doesn’t mean you are a bad person, especially when you know you have no desire to cause pain and destruction to others or yourself.

Closing Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts can rob us of the joy and calm we all deserve in life. Dealing with intrusive thoughts is difficult. We can’t control every thought that pops into our heads on a daily basis, but we can control how we react to them. Choose to deny their influence and stay grounded in who you really are. By not acting on them, you are denying their power over you.

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  Mental Health
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