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Intrusive thoughts: Why we have them, and how to take away their power

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By OlaoluwaPublished 2 months ago 4 min read
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Intrusive thoughts: Why we have them, and how to take away their power
Photo by Milad Fakurian on Unsplash

Sometimes people experience unwanted, sudden, and involuntary thoughts that are uncomfortable and disturbing, despite originating from their own mind. These thoughts might be violent or sexual, or a fear that they’re about to do something inappropriate or embarrassing. Whatever the thought is, it likely brings on feelings of worry or shame, which is also why many people have kept these thoughts a secret. Plus, the more they try to push the thought out of their mind, the stickier it gets.

If this sounds familiar, you’ve probably experienced intrusive thoughts. They can be a menace to our mental health, and because there is such a stigma around them, people misunderstand these thoughts to signal something wrong within them. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth! Click through to learn everything you need to know about intrusive thoughts.

- You're not alone

Intrusive thoughts are thought to affect some six million Americans, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. And that's only what's reported! According to the OCD and Anxiety Center, research has found that over 90% of the population experiences intrusive thoughts.

- Common causes: OCD

Intrusive thoughts are commonly linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder, wherein thoughts become so nagging that they prompt repetitive behaviors to try to prevent them from occurring, like constantly checking to see if the oven is off.

- Common causes: PTSD

Intrusive thoughts are also common to those who have post-traumatic stress disorder, which can be triggered by a life-threatening or extremely stressful event. The thoughts often then relate to the trauma that occurred.

- Common causes: Eating disorders

According to Healthline, people who have developed an eating disorder may also tend to experience intrusive thoughts, like frequently worrying about the physical impact of food on their bodies. These thoughts can also encourage behavior like purging in an effort to quiet the thoughts.

- But intrusive thoughts can happen to anyone

Many people who experience these thoughts don't have a mental health disorder. Instead, it's triggered by high levels of stress or anxiety. They can also be brought on by short-term factors like hormone shifts, so it's not uncommon for women to experience more frequent intrusive thoughts after birthing a child.

- It can feel shameful or embarrassing

People are often too embarrassed or ashamed to talk about thoughts that are bad, immoral, or dangerous. They are discouraged from talking about them because they don't want to be judged for having them.

- Often about taboo subjects

Medical News Today outlines examples of intrusive thoughts, which include fears of being sexually attracted to members of their family or people of their same gender, doubts about a partner's fidelity, having thoughts contrary to their religious beliefs, and harming loved ones.

- It can also be scary

People who experience intrusive thoughts sometimes wrongly interpret them as impulses and become afraid that they might commit the acts they pictured in their mind. Additionally, they fear it means that something is wrong with them.

- The mistakes and myths

In trying to be more self-aware and in tune with our intuition, we can sometimes interpret these thoughts as signs, messages, red flags, or warnings sent to us by some all-knowing instinct. But not all thoughts “mean” something!

- They usually indicate the opposite

People with intrusive thoughts try to fight them (and thereby fuel them) because the thoughts are at odds with who they are. They're what Ieso Digital Health calls “ego dystonic,” meaning they're the opposite of what we actually want and intend to do. That means that people with violent or blasphemous thoughts tend to actually be gentle or pious.

- Identifying intrusive thoughts

Sometimes it can be hard to decipher what exactly an intrusive thought is, and it can be confused with regular negative-feeling thoughts. Here are some signs to look for as outlined by Harvard Health.

- The thought is unusual for you

An intrusive thought is usually very different from your typical thoughts. So if you're not a violent person, for example, the thought might be very violent.

- The thought is disturbing

If a thought is bothering you significantly and you want to push it out of your mind, it's likely that it's an intrusive thought.

- You feel like you can't control the thought

Intrusive thoughts do just that: they intrude. They are also often repetitive, and can interfere with whatever you're doing at the moment.

- The thought won't go away easily

Intrusive thoughts don't go away easily. If you have a one-time thought that you forget after a moment, it's likely not an intrusive thought. If it sticks harder the more you want it to leave, it's likely an intrusive thought.

- A strange truth

Your thoughts aren't you! It seems strange to think, but not every thought we have is worth examining. Sometimes we place far too much importance on the machinery of our minds, which is just busy at work trying to process so much at once and churning out thoughts in response to them.

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About the Creator

Olaoluwa

Ola was born 24th May 2011

He is a Story teller, Reasearcher, Poem Writer and lot more

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