Our brains are fascinating. We often like to think that we have control over our thoughts and our feelings. But the truth is that the thoughts we have are not always in our control, and there are situations where a person may have thoughts they do not want, with no explanation as to why they are occurring, and no easy way to stop them.
We call these “intrusive thoughts.” Intrusive thoughts are a symptom of OCD and anxiety. They may also occur with depression and other mental health issues. They’re thoughts that seem to come often and/or at random, even when you’re not doing anything that should trigger the thought. Usually, these thoughts are distressing – for example, worries about death – which makes them more noticeable.
Some intrusive thoughts can also be completely out of character, but make you doubt who you are and what you believe. Often times, if you have these intrusive thoughts, it helps to contact a local therapist that can help you learn to cope with them and control them.
Understanding Intrusive Thoughts
We do not entirely understand why intrusive thoughts occur. Most people will have them, even without anxiety, so we know that they’re not entirely anxiety or stress related. One theory is that, when we have stress or anxiety, our minds are searching for something to fear. We also know from research that, when we try to push a thought away, it is more likely to return. It’s possible people with anxiety are trying to suppress the thought more, causing it to occur more often.
Still, no matter why it occurs, we also know that it is typically not in someone’s control. Some examples of intrusive thoughts include:
- Thoughts or fears about death.
- Thoughts or fears about something happening to someone we love.
- Doubts about performance or abilities.
- Fears that you’re some type of “deviant.” (depending on what that means to you)
- Unwanted and unexpected sexual thoughts.
One thing to make clear about these thoughts is that they are rarely, if ever, related to a genuine want or desire. For example, a person may have an intrusive thought that they may be violent against someone. But the person is not violent, and the thought is not related to a latent desire to be violent. In fact, it is because they are not violent that this thought tends to recur, as the more they are distressed by it, the more it seems to come back.
What is the Treatment for Intrusive Thoughts?
There are many approaches to addressing these thoughts. First, our therapists need to gain a better understanding of the origin of these thoughts, and if you have conditions like anxiety, OCD, or something else. Second, we will need to decide whether to treat the thought directly (by giving you tools to help you prevent the thoughts from occurring) or we may need to treat the underlying problem, such as the anxiety that makes these thoughts more likely to trigger.
Treatment is going to differ between patients. But that is why it is so important to call Long Island Counseling Services today. Our Long Island therapists can help address anxiety, OCD, intrusive thoughts, and other issues. Please contact us today to get started.