Thursday’s Topic| Intrusive Thoughts

Introducing Thursday’s Topic.

Every Thursday, we will be introducing a new topic to discuss. These topics will focus on mental illness and parenting. We hope that we can create an atmosphere where parenting and mental illness coexist without judgment and shame. For our very first Thursday’s Topic, we will be discussing intrusive thoughts. 

Thursday’s Topic: intrusive thoughts

What’s an intrusive thought?

It’s an involuntary thought, image, or idea that is unpleasant and unwanted. These thoughts often become obsessive, hard to get rid of, and distressing. While these thoughts may be disturbing, it’s essential to understand that it is normal. 

You did not invite these thoughts. They happen without invitation or warning. One out of four people will suffer from an intrusive thought or image. A person that does not have a mental illness can have intrusive thoughts. However, a person with a mental illness; such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and OCD, these thoughts can become harder to dismiss. 

Intrusive Thoughts Are Involuntary 

As a mother, that suffered from postpartum depression, and my fears trigged immobilizing intrusive thoughts. They became terrifying and realistic that it was the reason I sought treatment. After envisioning harming my child, I spiraled into a nervous breakdown. I had no desires to hurt any of them. Yet, when I closed my eyes, all I saw was this scene on repeat. At that moment, I could not remove the thought from my mind. It was impossible to move, sleep, talk, or think. My husband stayed up all night, soothing my nerves, and brought me to the doctor the next day. During my assessment, I was referred to a Center for Women’s Mood Disorders to start treatment.

 It was there that I learned that I suffered from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Agoraphobia. But, most importantly, that my thoughts were not actions. Although they felt like reality during the obsessive state or it may be acted out, that is not the case. The reason why intrusive thoughts are traumatizing is the concept of the idea is not a typical action of the person that is having it. The obsessive behavior of the intrusive thought overplaying manifests into anxious thinking. To the point that we are not able to rationalize the behavior. The intrusive thought itself becomes irrational. 

How To Deal With Intrusive Thoughts

It’s important to remember that these thoughts are not voluntary. When confronted with one, here are some tools that can be used to help control the anxious thinking.

  1. Remind yourself that intrusive thoughts are not harmful. 
  2. Recognize these as only thoughts and not actions that you desire to act out.
  3. Change your scenery: removing yourself from the area or situation that the thought appeared. 
  4. Complete a task: by focusing on something else, it allows our mind to shift focus on the intrusive thought. 

Treatment is available

Although intrusive thoughts are rational, it is valuable to seek treatment if the thoughts becoming overwhelming, and you are unable to control them. Treatment options are available. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your doctor.

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43 comments

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  1. Love, Auntie

    Excellent suggestions. I also found this book incredibly helpful: Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts: A CBT-Based Guide to Getting Over Frightening, Obsessive, or Disturbing Thoughts – By Winston and Seif.

  2. Christopher G. Bremicker

    When I was first treated for schizophrenia, my doctor prescribed Stela-zine to handle the intrusive thoughts. He called them “extraneous” thoughts. The drug made the thoughts go away. That was 45 years ago. I still get them, when under stress, but I recognize them for what they are. They repeat themselves, too. Sentences, or parts of sentences, repeat themselves. I suffer from anxiety but normally my mind is clear. That did not used to be the case. .

  3. mcushing7

    Thank you for your posts on ways to deal with different types of mental health issues as it is important to bring awareness to others. More people than we know have issues like this and am personally having issues with anxiety and sometimes depression. Thank you 🙂

  4. Alexandra

    I used to have these types of thoughts more than I do now. I absolutely hated them and worked really hard to stop them after they came by immediately focusing on something else and getting active if I had to. Now they do pop in randomly but I am able to stop them and not let them stay. It happens usually when I am very stressed or if I am triggered by something.

  5. The Prepping Wife

    I’m so glad you shared this post! Because quite honestly, I always thought things like this were excuses. I remember back in 2001 reading about Andrea Yates and thinking it was all just an excuse to get rid of her kids. Obviously that isn’t actually the case. Postpartum depression and intrusive thoughts are very real, and I am glad you are bringing more awareness to it. I don’t think it is talked about nearly enough, until there is another Andrea Yates in the news, and then it is all judgment and nothing else. That doesn’t help anyone suffering, it just pushes them back into hiding.

  6. Kelly Martin

    Stopping intrusive thoughts before they take hold is so important. I try to redirect my thoughts to something positive as soon as I can.

  7. Angela Ricardo Bethea

    Now this is something I’ve experienced quite a lot. It’s not always negative and harmful but it always shocks me how easy these intrusive thoughts pass by. Those are some great tips, will definitely try them out.

  8. stephanieiraggi

    I was just talking with my husband about this yesterday. I have anxiety/PPA and the things that come to my mind can be truly scary. I’ve learned to “sit with them” and let them go for the most part, but it’s still not fun to have them.

  9. May De Jesus-Palacpac

    Yes, intrusive thoughts can happen to everyone and I agree that it would be harder for those with mental disabilities to dismiss them.

    Thanks for the tips, will take note of them.

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