Life Style

Why we have intrusive thoughts and how to stop them

You’re standing on a balcony enjoying the view, and suddenly, a disturbing thought flashes through your mind – “What if I jump?” Or maybe you’re holding your adorable baby, and a horrifying image of dropping them pops into your head.....CONTINUE READING

These unwanted, disturbing thoughts are called intrusive thoughts, and they can be very unsettling. But here’s the thing, having intrusive thoughts doesn’t mean you’re crazy or a bad person. In fact, they’re a normal part of the human experience.

What are intrusive thoughts?

Our brain sometimes, throws out helpful ideas, like reminding you to grab your keys before leaving the house. But other times, it throws out bizarre, disturbing, or even violent suggestions. These are intrusive thoughts.

These thoughts are often fleeting, lasting just a second or two. However, for some people, they can become persistent and distressing, causing significant anxiety.

Why do we have intrusive thoughts?

The exact reason why we experience intrusive thoughts isn’t fully understood. But here are some of the theories:

Evolutionary glitch: Some researchers suggest that intrusive thoughts might be an evolutionary leftover. Our ancestors who were constantly on high alert for danger might have benefited from the occasional “what if” scenario, even if it was unpleasant.
Fear response misfire: Our brains are wired to identify potential threats. Sometimes, this system might malfunction, causing us to fixate on unlikely or exaggerated dangers.
Stress and anxiety: Experiencing stress, anxiety, or trauma can make us more susceptible to intrusive thoughts.
Focus fuels the fire: The more you try to push away an intrusive thought, the more persistent it might become. It’s like the annoying song that gets stuck in your head – the more you try to forget it, the harder it is to do.
Intrusive thoughts vs. OCD

Intrusive thoughts can be a symptom of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). However, not everyone who experiences intrusive thoughts has OCD.

Here’s a key difference:

Intrusive thoughts: These are unwanted thoughts that may cause anxiety, but they don’t necessarily lead to compulsions (ritualistic behaviours aimed at reducing anxiety).
OCD: In OCD, intrusive thoughts trigger anxiety, which people try to manage by performing compulsions. These compulsions might offer temporary relief, but the cycle continues.
How to deal with intrusive thoughts
1. Acknowledge and accept

The first step is to acknowledge that intrusive thoughts are just thoughts – they don’t reflect your desires or intentions. Accepting that they’re a normal part of the human experience can take some of the power away from them.

2. Don’t fight them

Trying to push away intrusive thoughts can backfire. Instead, try to observe the thought objectively, like watching a cloud drift across the sky.

3. Shift your focus

Engage in activities that require your full attention, like reading, listening to music, or spending time in nature. Distraction can help break the cycle of intrusive thoughts.

4. Practice relaxation techniques

Techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness can help reduce overall anxiety, which can make intrusive thoughts less bothersome.

5. Get professional help

If intrusive thoughts are causing distress and interfering with your daily life, consider seeking professional help. A therapist can teach you coping mechanisms and help you address any underlying anxiety or OCD.

You’re not alone

Intrusive thoughts can be unsettling, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Many people experience them, and there are effective ways to manage them. By understanding these thoughts and adopting helpful strategies, you can prevent them from taking over your life.

Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. Don’t hesitate to reach out for support if you need it.

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