Most people go through certain episodes of intrusive thoughts that aren’t necessary for any part of their lives, which they don’t even want, and can make a simple situation go bad for them. These thoughts can result in a great distress for them and you aren’t even clear about their source. Such thoughts hold on to your minds out of nowhere and leave with you being all anxious over a dot. Most of the time these thoughts represent the dark image that isn’t unacceptable by society or religion. They show how deep you are in the act and now giving you all kinds of threats and terrors.
People with intrusive thoughts often think of themselves as the worst, unable to see their good side. From doubting your own relationships to wrongful decisions and your identity, these thoughts open up all the dark sides of your lives. In this blog, we’ll be learning a little more about intrusive thoughts and ways to cope with them.
Knowing More About Intrusive Thoughts
Intrusive thoughts are unwanted, involuntary thoughts that are usually disturbing or distressing in nature. They usually seem to appear out of nowhere and may reoccur again and again, which makes them feel even more powerful. The thoughts are often out of character and may be against the person’s values or beliefs.
In many cases, intrusive thoughts are violent, disturbing, sexually graphic, or reflect beliefs that the person finds abhorrent. These thoughts can result in extreme mental pressure for any person as they start judging themselves more harshly than they should.
People with intrusive thoughts often undergo the following aspects in their minds:
- Harm yourself
- Harm the people you love
- Feel that you’re sick
- Your loved on is going to die
- You may hit someone with your car
Types Of Intrusive Thoughts
There are several different types of intrusive thoughts. Some people may have intrusive thoughts about:
- germs, infections, or other kinds of contamination
- violent acts, aggression, or causing harm to other people
- doubts about doing tasks wrong or leaving tasks unfinished
- religion, blasphemy, or being an immoral person
- sexual acts or situations
- acting out or saying the wrong thing in public
Most of the time, people with intrusive thoughts don’t even fit the above category. Sometimes, people who experience intrusive thoughts become worried about what they mean. This can lead to someone trying to control or stop the thoughts. People may also feel ashamed and want to keep them secret from others.
Keep in mind that the image or thought might be disturbing, but it does not usually have a particular meaning. If you have no desire or intention to act on the thought, and you can easily move on with your day, then it’s probably nothing to worry about.
5 Ways to Deal with Intrusive Thoughts
The good news is that disturbing thoughts don’t have to consume your life. You can overcome and free your mind from them. Next time you’re faced with an intrusive thought, keep these five tips in mind.
Don’t Suppress Your Thoughts
For many people, the first reaction they have when faced with an intrusive thought is to try to forget about it. Unfortunately, this method results in the exact opposite effect and you end up thinking about the intrusive thought even more.
According to an experiment held by a Harvard University psychology professor, people who were forced not to think about a certain subject resulted in thinking about it even more. In the experiment, they asked the participants not to like about white bears for at least 5 minutes and told them to time the intervals of their thoughts about white bears. As per the results the participants thought about it once every minute.
Now they asked them to divert their attention by engaging themselves in activities like book reading or crossword solving and the results were remarkable. So, it is recommended to divert yourself into activities instead of suppressing your thoughts. Moreover, don’t switch between multiple activities as it may link back to the intrusive thoughts. You shouldn’t also engage in the activities that are based on your thoughts.
Remember Nothing Stays the Same
If you’re having an intrusive thought then you should make up your mind that this misery is temporary and it’ll pass soon. Although it seems to be quite simple, it is very impactful and helps you get your perspectives in order.
The way it works is that because of your intrusive thoughts, your brain is unable to comprehend various things. It may think that your misery is going to last forever and you’ll never escape it. But at that time, you have to make your brain know that your mind can not be in one state permanently.
Repeating “This too shall pass” or “This is temporary” can help you reduce the situation’s intensity.
Visualizing your thoughts can allow you to feel more in control of them. For example, you could picture your mind as a blue sky, and your thoughts as passing clouds. Some of the clouds are light, and some dark, but none of them are permanent.
This is a mindfulness technique known as thought clouds, but it can be used outside of meditation practice. Intrusive thoughts happen to us all from time to time. With a little bit of focus and commitment, you can overcome your intrusive thoughts. Your success depends on your ability to fight the urge to worry and obsess over them.
One of the core principles of mindfulness is learning how to calmly observe your thoughts, without judging or becoming emotionally tangled up in them. This can make it a great way to cope with intrusive thoughts because you’re not denying that the thoughts are present, just changing your relationship with them.
You don’t need any special equipment to start meditating, just a few spare moments, and somewhere quiet to practice, if possible. There are also lots of meditation apps available, with courses specifically geared toward beginners and people living with intrusive thoughts, that may help you.
Ground Yourself in the Past
Intrusive thoughts can often lead you to focus on the negative and create stories that aren’t based on reality. Without even realizing it, you may be spending a lot of your time living in the past, or obsessing about the future.
Focusing on the present moment can be a powerful way to manage this. Grounding techniques that can help you centre your focus may include:
- deep breathing
- active meditation
- body scan meditation
Not all of these tips will be practical in every situation. But one thing you can always try to do is reframe the intrusive thought you’re having.
Since you know all about the intrusive thoughts, it should be made clear that while implementing all the coping strategies, you should also talk out your feelings and consult a psychotherapist. Most of the time you aren’t comfortable sharing stuff or even admitting that you have such thoughts but if you want to cure them you need to own them. Talking them out in front of someone reliable like a friend or someone in your family can be fruitful for your state of mind. You can even gain a better perspective by being thorough about the things you feel or the thoughts you deal with.
If you’re unsure about talking to someone you know then you can always go for a therapist who can maintain your confidentiality like a therapist. You can even take these therapies in individual as well as group settings. You shouldn’t stop observing your thoughts, approach them curiously without any judging aspect and research for the cure that suits you.