Out of Your Mind: How to Handle Intrusive Thoughts   

“Thoughts are only thoughts. They are not you. You do belong to yourself, even when your thoughts don’t.”  

 Author John Green was onto something when he was quoted talking about how to separate oneself from intrusive thoughts.  

But, what is an intrusive thought?  

 The OCD and Anxiety Center defines it as a thought (or thoughts) that are unwanted — along with images, impulses or urges — that can happen spontaneously or that can be caused by external/internal stimuli. Often, these thoughts are “distressing” and reoccurring.  

Intrusive thoughts can take over one’s mind and interfere with day-to-day tasks, activities and more.  

The Wellness Society says that overall, thoughts are subject to “our situation, our viewpoint and also nonsense.”  

The Wellness Society notes that thoughts can produce “positive, neutral or negative reactions,” and they tend to come from the inner meanings we think are correct about our self or the world.  

Intrusive thoughts for example paint a picture of negative imagery or depict frightening scenarios played in one’s mind.  

“Most people at some point in their lives will have had a random thought of ‘what if I were to jump from this bridge?’ or ‘what if I pushed this person over?’”  

According to the Wellness Society, intrusive thoughts are also your brain warning you of possible dangers in the environment, which could be useful.  

“They often stick around due to you finding the thought unacceptable or unthinkable in some way,” according to the Wellness Society.  

The Wellness Society’s article adds that the more a person has had a thought, the more likely it is to come back around with some forms of typical intrusive thoughts including:  

  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else (based on fear of purposefully or accidentally harming yourself or a loved one that may lead to a distrust around sharp objects or things that could cause harm).  
  • Sexual thoughts (including fear of being sexually attracted to infants, members of a family or surrounding sexual orientation).  

Ideas may be violent and may not “reflect your true intention of not wanting to act upon such thoughts,” according to the Wellness Society.  

“However, it may worry you that deep down there must be a reason why you’re thinking this or that maybe you do actually want to act on them,” the Wellness Society added.  

  

What’s the key to handling negative thoughts?  

Remember: thoughts Are Not Facts  

  • It’s important to recognize that while the thoughts can be terrible, leave you feeling uneasy or uncomfortable – they are just thoughts and not the truth. “Try not to assign importance to them. They will come and go, just like every other thought you ever had.”  

There’s Something Different Between Thoughts and Intent  

  • Simply because someone reflects or thinks about certain things it does not mean that they intend to act on them. “Learn the difference.”  

Work on “Distress Tolerance Skills”  

  • “Learn to sit with your distress” and the uncomfortable thoughts, which is predicated on if you are in a safe environment.  

 “Instead of fearing and fighting uncomfortable emotions and desperately trying to get rid of them, we can learn to accept that the emotion will pass and that we can cope,” according to the Wellness Society article. “This will involve allowing the thought in and sitting with it, without taking action to combat the distress.”  

Developing distress tolerance skills (while not getting overwhelmed by anxious thoughts) takes time and patience with yourself with many tips including being non-judgmental.  

“Try not to associate the triggered emotion as ‘good or bad,’ ‘right or wrong;’ simply let it be. It is neither of those things. It is what it is,” according to the Wellness Society.  

  

 

 

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