Do you ever experience intrusive thoughts that prevent you from completing your daily tasks? Are you ever having a casual or fun experience when suddenly a disturbing thought enters your mind, leaving you feeling derailed and not in the moment?
Intrusive thoughts can feel strange, disturbing, and distressing because their content can be scary, sexual, embarrassing, inappropriate, or even violent. In fact, for many individuals experiencing intrusive thoughts, it can feel like no matter how hard they try to drop the ideas, they linger or grow in intensity. When intrusive thoughts reach certain intensity levels to the point that they hinder life, even leading to isolation or addiction, it may be time to seek professional support.
While intrusive thoughts can feel overwhelming, making it difficult to focus or feel like yourself, it’s important to recognize they are relatively common and possible to manage. According to research, many people globally experience intrusive thoughts each year, making them an almost universal experience. If intrusive thoughts are something you’ve been struggling with, rest assured there is a way out, and you’re not alone.
In this blog post by Integrative Healthcare Center, we will discuss intrusive thoughts, their effects, tips, and therapies you may want to consider so you can start feeling better. By the end, we hope you better understand your intrusive thoughts, recognize they don’t have to control you, and take the necessary steps so you can live your best life now by finding the support you need.
You are not alone in this distress. For more information about Integrative Healthcare Center, click here.
What Are Intrusive Thoughts?
Experts typically define intrusive thoughts as disturbing thoughts or visuals that pop up unexpectedly in a person’s mind. Often these thoughts feel completely random or irrelevant to what the individual is currently experiencing. Intrusive thoughts are often nerve-wracking and can cause a great deal of anxiety in the person inflicted with them.
Intrusive thoughts can also be confusing, leading to delusions about the self or an overall unease around the future. However, it is essential to recognize that they can happen and do not define you or your future actions.
Intrusive thoughts can range from violent ideas like hurting a loved one to sexual thoughts and worries about health, safety, or religious blasphemy. While intrusive thoughts can be complicated to manage and experience, in most cases, they don’t last forever and pass. If intrusive thoughts are related to a mental health condition, there are options for clinical support.
Why Do Intrusive Thoughts Happen?
Intrusive thoughts may occur in the middle of a work meeting or while enjoying a relaxing day at the beach. Many people report being engaged in daily life when suddenly a disturbing image pops into their heads, leaving them wondering, “Why did I think of that?”
Generally, intrusive thoughts are different from an individual’s average thoughts. They can be in response to specific life experiences, such as trauma or grief. In other cases, they can indicate a mental health condition like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), anxiety, depression, or extreme stress.
Understanding intrusive thoughts and seeking professionals can help individuals cope with and address them so they can focus on the positive things about life and humanity. While intrusive thoughts may be uncomfortable and painful, it’s important to remember that they’re just thoughts and often do not reflect true intentions or beliefs about ourselves and the world.
For some, it helps to think of intrusive thoughts as the reflexive spasms of our minds processing our circumstances, not at all an accurate depiction of who we are or how we must behave.
6 Tips to Help Deal with Intrusive Thoughts
As mentioned, you can help manage your intrusive thoughts so you can focus on the things you love again. Here are a few tips to help you through intrusive thoughts:
- Acknowledge Your Intrusive Thoughts
Intrusive thoughts can be harsh, but it’s essential to acknowledge them rather than ignore them. Accepting that you cannot quickly eliminate intrusive thoughts is often the first step toward managing or minimizing them. Trying to suppress intrusive thoughts can make them more persistent or distracting, so nonjudgmentally acknowledging their presence is critical.
- Change Your Environment
Changing your environment and engaging in different activities can distract you from intrusive thoughts. Rather than staying in the same space where your intrusive thoughts are omnipresent, try moving to another room or walking outside.
Additionally, focus on a new activity that requires your attention, such as reading, drawing, or listening to music. You may relieve the weight of your intrusive thoughts by redirecting your attention to something new. Remember, it’s okay to experiment with different distraction techniques until you find one that works for you.
- Pay Attention to Your Physical Health
Being aware and addressing your physical health is vital not only for your physical well-being but also for your mental wellness. Exercise and maintaining a healthy diet can significantly reduce stress levels, leading to intrusive thoughts. Regular physical activity such as cycling, swimming, or yoga can help you feel more in control, boost endorphins, and improve your mood.
These simple lifestyle changes can improve your overall well-being and alleviate some pressure associated with intrusive thoughts.
- Find a Support System
Intrusive thoughts can be debilitating and make it hard to lead a happy and fulfilling life, so finding a support system to help you overcome them is crucial. Extra encouragement and guidance can make a big difference and may be worth considering.
Sometimes, simply having someone to listen to and validate your experiences can be incredibly beneficial. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Many people care about your well-being and want to help.
- Practice Relaxation Techniques
Amid stressful or anxious situations, it’s easy for our minds to become cluttered with intrusive thoughts that only add to the chaos. Deep breathing techniques like inhaling slowly and profoundly exhaling can help you calm your body and find clarity.
Another relaxation method is engaging in a mindfulness or meditation practice. Focusing on breathing or visualizing yourself in a peaceful place can help ease physical tension and mental strain.
- Seek Professional Support
If intrusive thoughts become too overwhelming or make you feel unsafe, contact a licensed mental health professional for support. Intrusive thoughts don’t have to be your reality; help is available.
Therapies That Help Individuals with Intrusive Thoughts
TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) and MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment) therapies are two types of treatments that can be effective in helping to manage intrusive thoughts by addressing their cause. TMS therapy is a non-invasive brain stimulation technique that utilizes magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. MAT therapy involves medication and counseling to treat substance use disorders that can lead to intrusive thoughts.
Others find relief for intrusive thoughts through psychiatric care, talk therapy, and other modalities focusing on symptom management. These therapies can help reduce intrusive thinking by targeting the underlying causes of anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses associated with intrusive thoughts.
Your Way Out of Intrusive Thinking
Intrusive thoughts can be very distressing and all-consuming. Still, it is essential to remember you can manage them, and they don’t depict what’s to come. Acknowledging their existence and distracting yourself from the moment can help tremendously. Additionally, taking care of your physical health and cultivating a helpful social environment can assist in coping with intrusive thoughts. Lastly, professional help, such as mental health services, provides additional support and guidance as you navigate this experience.
More About Integrative Healthcare Center
Our Integrative Healthcare Center offers mental health services to support people dealing with depression and feelings of hopelessness. With helpful treatment, many find a way out of intrusive thoughts and get past their current situation to their life’s next chapter.
If intrusive thoughts are taking control of your life and making you anxious or feel overwhelmed, seeking professional help might be the right step. Whether you’re looking for psychiatry, depression treatment, TMS, or biofeedback therapy, our team of experts can provide personalized solutions tailored to your needs.