What are intrusive thoughts?

August 29, 2019
Grace Noon

intrusive thoughtsIntrusive thoughts are not often talked about due to their taboo nature. However if you are having them they can be extremely distressing. Intrusive thoughts are thoughts that pop into your mind and can often make you imagine the worst thing possible. They are characterised by being truly awful ‘unspeakable’ things that may never have occurred to you before that moment.

These could be things like “What if I…

  • “…threw my child down the stairs?”
  • “…drove my car off a bridge?”
  • “…abuse my baby when changing their nappy?”

Or it could be making up rules for yourself, such as “If I…

  • “…see a red car in the next 5 minutes my child won’t die”
  • “…tap the table 10 times with each hand I will get home safely”

It is a cruel trick of the brain. Intrusive thoughts are awful when they occur and can frighten and shock the person having them because they feel like they come out of nowhere and cause worry about something that they previously would never have considered a possibility. And, because of the heinous or ridiculous nature of these thoughts, people fear judgement about speaking about them, so often suffer in silence.

When is it time to seek help?

We all have thoughts, good and bad, all of the time. When we are feeling well we are able to dismiss them and get on with our lives. The difference with intrusive thoughts is that they are uncomfortable and distressing and you will have trouble dismissing them. They can become overwhelming, interfere with your normal day-to-day life, and as a result, you may change your behaviour because of them (these are sometimes known as safety behaviours). At this point it may be that you are actually suffering from an anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder.

You need to remember that they are just thoughts and do not make you a bad person. We have a tendency to pay attention to thoughts based in worry when we are feeling stressed, anxious or low in mood, but doing this ‘feeds’ them. It is what you choose to act on that matters, so try to dismiss these thoughts as any other passing thought and you will find it has less control over you.

If you are struggling, you don’t have to suffer and help is available. Contact us or book a free private and confidential 15 minute telephone consultation here.

To learn more about what its like, read Amber’s story on Mind about her experience with intrusive thoughts.

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