What are intrusive thoughts
Let’s talk about 3 types of intrusive thoughts, who has them, if they are harmful to you, and what you can do to get them to stop.
Have you ever had an unwanted thought or image get stuck in your head? Usually, you can ignore it and move on. But sometimes, it just keeps popping right back up.
These thoughts can be sticky. Uncomfortable. And likely not something you want to think about. So if you don’t want to think about these thoughts why are they happening. It is intrusive. You didn’t invite it in. You’re also having a hard time getting rid of this thought. It seems like the more times you push the thought away, it comes back even stronger.
You may have heard people say this before. Everyone has intrusive thoughts. But just because everyone has them doesn’t mean that yours do not matter. An intrusive thought can be literally anything. It could be random images, disturbing and violent ideas. It can be completely random in the sense of the brain continuing to say “what if” this were to happen. These can feel more than just thoughts. Some can feel them. They can be constant, relentless, make you cringe, make you even question yourself because you’re having certain thoughts.
I find that these thoughts love to come when you want them the least. They definitely are not easy to ignore. It is like a relentless child meeting your attention. Waiting for you to put value want to what they just said. Repeating something over and over and over again. Dad, dad, dad, dad, dad, dad, dad.
So the question is, are these intrusive thoughts harmful to you? The short answer is no. They are actually harmless. But, if you obsess about them, but value to them, and even try to find a way to get the thoughts to stop…. Then it can be a time where your life is now interrupted.
This can be often a sign of a mental health condition, often intrusive thoughts can be a symptom of anxiety, depression, OCD. When we say that everyone has intrusive thoughts. Somebody might have I thought that comes to your mind that causes some concern. This thought comes and it goes. If someone is struggling with a mental health condition, these thoughts come, and they come and they come and they come. That usually is accompanied by anxiety. By fear. By meaning. The brain is trying to interpret what just happened. It says that it must mean something important.
That right there is the trap. Once we start putting meaning on these thoughts, then we just put a value on them. Once they have value, they want to keep coming. Making individuals often feel bad about themselves.
Intrusive thoughts have many forms. Here are 3 types of intrusive thoughts
Sexual thoughts. It’s natural to have a sexual thought. They often come in they go. They’re very automatic end up to find you in anyway. When they are intrusive, they may come in the form of worry. Sexual intrusive thoughts can often include images and questions. It can be about anything and anyone.
Violent thoughts: Some may have harm thoughts. These thoughts may be related to hurting yourself or someone else. It could be an intrusive thought about pushing someone in front of a car. It can be fairly aggressive, he can make you wonder if you would ever act upon those thoughts. These thoughts can feel very real and graphic.
I called the next one just junk thoughts. You have no control over them, they have zero relevance to your life. You can be a thought about an interaction you had with somebody. It can be certain words that just repeat in your brain, certain images that keep coming back, more than them causing distress, they may cause annoyance. Individuals know that these thoughts don’t matter, yet they can’t get them out of their brain.
So here’s what you do with them…..NOTHING. --- Wow Nate, crap video bro. --- Wait, wait wait….hear me out. Nothing means, don’t come up with a list of things you can do to get the thoughts to stop. The second you devise a plan, the more thoughts you are likely to have. This is because we’re putting value on the thoughts. We’re saying they matter enough for us to problem solve how to get rid of them.
So with the NOTHING attitude, we see a thought as a thought. Don’t matter if it’s a harm thought, scary thoughts, or simply a plain on boring thought that just won’t stop. We can’t stop the thoughts, instead we can practice responding to them in a different way. Something like, “I’m loving these thoughts, you’re welcome to stick around” “join the party” “I may or may not have these thoughts all day, I’ve accepted it either way.” A thought is neither good or bad.
INVITE, INVITE, INVITE….It’s more enticing to a thought to want to come when it’s not welcome. When you’ve opened the doors and let whatever happen happen….it’s not as fun. There is a greater chance that this thought won’t come around.
Many may be asking….sooo when do these thoughts go away then? We don’t put a timeline on it. We don’t expect them to. We don’t look for freedom. We accept where we are now and enjoy the ride. The thoughts will slow down, when they slow down. In the meantime, your job is to LIVE life, let the thoughts be, don’t fix them, don’t make sense of them, don’t label them.
It’s doing what you want to do, NO MATTER WHAT thought comes your way. So, are you going to try it….Try Nothing. It’s worth your time to do nothing.
You know what will power you up? Subscribing to this channel. Thanks so much for watching and I will see you next time.
Sexual intrusive thoughts
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Nathan Peterson, LCSW
OCD can be tricky! I want to provide useful information for your OCD, anxiety, tics, tourette's, BFRBs, and many other anxiety related disorders.