Valerie Soleil is a writer with over 5 years of experience and holds a bachelor's degree in law and a B.A. For example, suppressing thoughts that occur when your temper flares up can work momentarily, but what you’ll really want to do is learn how to control these emotional outbursts in the future. Because these thoughts are unwanted and sometimes taboo, it can be hard to bring up your experience with them to someone you're friends with. This technique shows both self-love and compassion for the way your brain works. "At this point it is important to get help with the management of the thought. If you have intrusive thoughts regarding knives, you might have moved the knives in your kitchen, or. The intrusive thoughts keep the anxiety going and maintain the fear-producing spiral. Using self-talk to coach your way through the process is key. Ever since mine started I felt like these intrusive thoughts were thoughts I was picking up on from very disturbed people. Mindfulness is great stuff all around. But while they can't be prevented completely, there are techniques you can use to help them happen less and to make them less distressing when they do happen. As I said in the beginning, the goal should not be to completely stop all unwanted thoughts because sometimes that is something that is out of our control. CBT therapist Katie d'Ath explains the issues behind trying not to have certain thoughts. They can teach you to control your mind more effectively and prevent the random thoughts from galloping through your brain. Choosing the best course of action might require some experimentation. However, you actually empower the voice. When you feel these intrusive thoughts creeping in, think about the situation that triggered them. Music, movies, a conversation with someone, a sport, hobby, or activity can engage our brain in something else." "You have thousands of thoughts every day that you don't even notice because they come and go so quickly. Interesting concept. The brain pushes these thoughts to the subconscious, so you don’t have to deal with them. Stop changing your behaviours. Then I realize that I think about the ones I care about the most,and the horrible thought connects to that person and my mind tries to tell me I would do these things to the ones I love.I feel a lot better after reading your comment. "If it gets to the point where the intrusive thought is effecting your ability to work, go to school, manage your day to day activities it has crossed over from being an irritant to a significant life problem," Dr. Klapow says. However, suppression only works for these very minor instances. It may be an unresolved trauma response, it may be an anxiety disorder, and it may be a grief response that has not processed. Allowing the thought to happen allows it to run its course and as distressing as it may be it will come and it will go. So, for example, you might think, "What if I have a heart attack?" You are able to decide how to describe it, but you're not avoiding it. So, to let that thought free, acknowledge it up front. Don’t Indulge in Them. I know myself well,and I know that I react so strongly to these thoughts because they are about things that I would NEVER do. Dealing with stressful thoughts can feel super isolating, but it turns out, it's really common. All rights reserved. If we indulge in our intrusive thoughts, then we give them more power and increase the likelihood of them reoccurring. "If you allow it, the intrusive thought could carry you away on an hour-long emotional journey," Hyde says. "Talk to the thoughts: Say, 'I see you thought, you are OK, I love you, but I'm not listening to you,'" Jasmin Terrany, licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) tells Bustle. When there is nothing going on or too much going on the intrusive thoughts are triggered. For a small proportion of the population, however, they are followed by a strong urge to address the way they make us feel. The best way to deal with these intrusive thoughts, in the long run, is accepting them. To learn more about intrusive thoughts, where they come from, why they have a tendency to haunt us so, and figure out how to stop them, there are many options in books that might help: Intrusive Thoughts in Clinical Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment by David A. Clark And most importantly, remember that everyone has thoughts like these, and they are normal, as long as they don’t interfere with your daily life. Most of the time, these thoughts are merely annoying. This is probably what most of us do with the mild episodes that occur throughout the day. Often times, they are not even aware of the images, ideas or memories they are repressing. "If anything, that fuels fear and anxiety, and makes everything worse. "Stop beating yourself up for having intrusive thoughts," Neo says. How to Stop Intrusive Thoughts. When these intrusive thoughts start popping up, ask yourself a series of questions, as you let the scenario unfold in your mind. While there's nothing out of the ordinary about having intrusive thoughts, it's completely rational to be upset by them and to want to get help. What are the feelings that you associate with them? First, try to forgive yourself. God Allows Intrusive Thoughts to Train You to Ignore Temptation and Focus on Truth Instead. Intrusive thoughts can be disturbing, but are completely normal. She is a physical & mental health enthusiast who constantly expands her knowledge about the mysteries of the human body and mind. This is perhaps the most difficult of these three options. "From the thought of an exam paper that is due, to the thought of an argument you had with your partner, to the thought of a car crash you witnessed — they can be irritating to horrific [and] they represent something — an experience that is having an impact on you." "Intrusive thoughts become more distressing the more we try to make them stop," Dr. Klapow says. Intrusive thoughts may also occur in flashes, and often cause significant anxiety when they enter your mind. Whenever you are being affected by intrusive thoughts, it is important that you concentrate on your breathing. But it can be particularly useful when you're trying to regain mental control after you've experienced unwanted thoughts. By looking at them in a semi-objective way, you will no longer perceive them as signs that there is something fundamentally wrong with you. Only last year I found out that I have been dealing with a form of OCD called ‘intrusive thoughts’. "If anything, that fuels fear and anxiety, and makes everything worse. Try to analyze these recurring mental structures as if you were conducting a scientific experiment. Then, find an activity (coloring, maybe?) They are in no way indicative of anything you might do in the future. Let us take a detailed look at them below. The basic principles of modern psychoanalysis have been founded on the idea of repressed memories, and the methods one can employ to bring these memories to light, and help people deal with them. These reoccurring images usually come associated with feelings most of us would want to avoid, like guilt, or shame. in the midst of a panic attack. Amazon.com . It's something that almost everyone has to go through, and there are lots of techniques to make it easier. When you are aware of your presence, you can shut the outside world and voices disturbing you in your head. Try to analyze these recurring mental structures as if you were conducting a scientific experiment. In contrast, obsessive thoughts stop you from functioning properly. Knowing that you have the ability to prevent some of the distress can be super empowering. Plus, there are way more kinds of therapy out there than you might think. "Stop beating yourself up for having intrusive thoughts," Neo says. I discovered this through research and reading blogs on the Mind website, and seeing a therapist. Daniela Paez. Clearly this isn’t as horrific as an intrusive memory of a traumatic experience, but the cognitive processes seem to work in the same fashion with all forms of involuntary thoughts. "Being able to open up and share what you're going through can help you feel validated, and it's also a way to face the difficult thought while maintaining control. However, if they are coupled with a deeper, underlying issue, such as OCD or depression, intrusive thoughts can become more of a problem. Thanks Gil. Ever lie awake at night and surprise yourself with a thought that you just can't shake? All content published on this website is intended for informational purposes only. "After acknowledging the thought's presence, spend 5 minutes noticing things in the room. Could you elaboratre a little more? Unfortunately, the repressed material will have a tendency to pop back to the surface when you least expect it. for example. These questions serve a double purpose. Instead, you can say, "I feel stressed today, and there's loud music next door." This article was initially published in the Summer 2004 edition of the OCD Newsletter.. Avoidance is the main thing that maintains the power contained by an intrusive thought." The most damaging thing you can do is to exaggerate the severity of the situation. "They are thoughts that 'break' into our experience without our desire for them to be there." What do these thoughts have in … Or they might ruminate more generally, continually scanning their mind for things that might go wrong. It tends to occur without the person knowing it. By finding an activity that fully engulfs our concentration, the thoughts often move to the background. This effect is stronger for thoughts that have emotional content. "A thought in and of itself has no power. It only becomes apparent when its effects become noticeable in the conscious mind, in the way people react to certain situations, or in the images that are triggered by some stimuli. Try to relax, and as you do so, your mind will find something else to focus on and the thought will go away on its own. "Everyone experiences intrusive thoughts," Dr. Klapow says. I have been dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for 17 years, but until recently I’d been totally unaware of what I was dealing with. The brain is like a radio receiver for consciousness and there are negative and positive consciousness out there and we cannot control it. "When we tell ourselves not to think of something, it leads to a rebound effect, making the thought even stronger." Having obsessive, negative ideas is a huge source of suffering. Intrusive thoughts (and thought suppression) are also features of other clinical conditions such as PTSD and depression. "Intrusive thoughts are not completely random," Dr. Klapow says. And love and compassion can be critical to mitigating tough feelings of distress and discomfort. Plus, there's can be some humor and major catharsis in sharing your most out-there thoughts with a friend who's experienced it too. Knowing that you're in control, or that you can, eventually, regain control, is vital. Listen to your heartbeat. When intrusive thoughts do appear, don’t obsess over them nor try to to stop them. This is basically the mind’s defense mechanism against ideas or memories that are too painful to be handled on the spot. The first thing you want to do when you get an intrusive thought is to respond with logic. Accepting the fact that your situation is not unique will help you come to terms with your issues. Knowing this can help that upsetting thought carry less weight in your mind. Understand that you are not alone, on the contrary. For most people, Intrusive Thoughts and its association with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a confusing and difficult experience. "The act of trying to stop them actually makes them more readily available in our brains and thus they are likely to return. If practiced too often, for a very long period of time, suppression can be quite damaging. How to stop OCD intrusive thoughts depends on the severity of the problem. Identify Your Triggers Below are some examples of obsessive thoughts, how they affect your ability to cope with anxiety, and what you can do to stop … What do these thoughts have in common? There are dozens of categories of different obsessions and compulsions that make up the disorder known as OCD, and while these cover a wide range of differing themes, they all share many characteristics in common. There's a big difference between distraction and refocusing your energy. It can work in situations in which the intrusive thought is linked to some powerful emotion. "If you're noticing a certain thought is regularly making it difficult to function, it may be helpful to find someone you trust to speak with," Hyde says. Disturbing thoughts can vary greatly from person to person. How I Treat OCD Killer Thoughts: Treating Violent Obsessions. Thought suppression is a common feature of problems such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) where individuals attempt to suppress intrusive thoughts. It's totally natural to have these kinds of thoughts, but remember that these thoughts don't represent reality. Face the intrusive thoughts. Learning Mind has over 50,000 email subscribers and more than 1,5 million followers on social media. Let the thought play out in your mind. Great article and the advice is very helpful. "Intrusive thoughts are distressing because you believe them. 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