Mental Health

What are Intrusive Thoughts and How Do You Deal with Them?

By August 24, 2022 September 28th, 2022 No Comments

Intrusive thoughts are those thoughts that pop into your head unbidden and unwanted. These thoughts are usually negative and repetitive. They are like a broken record playing over and over again in your head.

It is possible to develop a pattern of thinking that is unbalanced. This happens when certain types of thoughts are repeated over and over again. As a result, the brain becomes conditioned to react to these thoughts automatically.

In this article, we will examine how intrusive thoughts manifest in different situations, as well as how they are treated.

How Do Intrusive Thoughts Begin?

To answer this question, we’ll need to look at how intrusive thoughts can manifest in conjunction with different mental health conditions.


Ruminating can also be commonly accompanied by depression. When someone has a problem, they might think about it repeatedly and analyze it for a long time. They might spend too much time focusing on their problems rather than their solutions, and this could prevent them from taking action.

When depressed, examples of intrusive thoughts include imagining everything in black-and-white terms and assuming that every outcome has an equally negative result. Another example of an intrusive thought that may occur when depressed is trying to guess what others think without any basis. These types of thoughts can cause distress and increase anxiety.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

People who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) often find themselves trapped by the thoughts they experience. These obsessions can take any shape, including fear of contamination, fear of committing crimes or being caught in the act, or fear of certain situations occurring again. The person suffering from OCD may feel compelled to perform repetitive behaviors to stop these thoughts or actions from happening. However, if not properly treated, OCD can cause serious health problems, both mentally and physically. For example, excessive handwashing can lead to skin infections, and feelings of anxiety can affect how someone performs daily tasks.

Because of their distrust, people who suffer from OCD may experience intrusive thoughts, feelings or impulses. Some of these might include feeling compelled to wash hands repeatedly, check locks or switches, or pull out hairs.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

When it comes to GAD, people often struggle with impaired concentration, trouble sleeping, and excessive worrying when intrusive thoughts pop into their minds. For example, they may repeatedly have worrisome thoughts about someone hurting themselves or developing an illness. Or they may worry that they’re going to get fired from their jobs.

These ideas may sound silly at first but could actually become very real and plausible if one thinks about them for too long. They can be concerning to family members.

How to Treat and Cope with Intrusive Thoughts

Manage Your Stress Levels

When experiencing high levels of psychological pressure, having intrusive, repetitive negative thinking may lead to sleeplessness, as well as a myriad of impairments to your quality of life.

One way to eliminate these symptoms is by reducing the levels of cortisol in the body through meditation, mindfulness exercises, yoga, exercising regularly, and eating right.

Science has proven that some ways of lowering stress include controlled breathing, mindful meditation and reframing your negative thoughts into positive thinking. Some people use these methods daily, others use them once per week or even less frequently. You may want to try one of these techniques if you’re feeling stressed out.

Prioritize Your Sleep Schedule

A lack of proper rest can lead to an increase in anxiety levels. People who feel anxious often find themselves dwelling on past events or worrying about future outcomes. When they’re not able to fall asleep, these thoughts keep them awake. However, if they do manage to drift off into dreamland, they may wake feeling refreshed and ready to face another day. Getting enough shut-eye can help people cope with stress and anxiety.

Acknowledge and Understand the Roots of Your Fears

To prevent unwanted thoughts from intruding into your mind, you need to know your own values and develop some ways to deal with stressful situations. A useful way to keep unwanted thoughts at bay is to know yourself better. Identifying your limits and establishing clear boundaries helps you avoid distressful situations.

In addition to these negative effects, anxiety disorders can also cause physical symptoms, such as sweating, shaking, muscle tension, headaches, stomach upset, dizziness, nausea, insomnia, diarrhea, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest pain, and fainting spells. These physical symptoms may make you feel worse, so they may not go away. They may also make you think you’re having heart attacks and stroke. Having an anxiety disorder can also lead to problems getting along with others, losing friends, and not being able to work effectively.

If unwanted intrusive memories occur, rather than trying to suppress them, accept them without judgment but know that they don’t define you. It’s important to remember that you CAN maintain healthy thinking patterns.

Face Intrusive Thoughts Head-On

Avoiding stressful encounters may not necessarily lead to better mental hygiene, as it could just make you retreat into yourself instead of facing the world around you. If you’re having trouble coping with certain issues, seek professional assistance through counseling or psychotherapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people identify dysfunctional beliefs and replace them with more realistic ones. CBT techniques include exposure and response prevention. Exposure involves confronting feared stimuli and learning new ways to cope with them, while response prevention asks clients to refrain from engaging in problem-solving strategies.

Meridian Advanced Psychiatry Can Help!

Intrusive thinking is often associated with negative emotional states like sadness, fear, anger, and loneliness. These feelings can be debilitating and impairing to people’s ability to function in everyday life. If you experience intrusive thinking, our team at Meridian Advanced Psychiatry can help. Contact us or call us at (208) 515-CARE today!

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