How To Mange Intrusive Thoughts
Intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts, impulses, or mental images that cause anxiety, and stress. They can also make it hard to carry out everyday responsibilities at work, at school, or in the home. These thoughts may focus on the fear of committing an act a person considers harmful, violent, immoral, sexually inappropriate, or sacrilegious. The person does not want to act on these thoughts.
Sexual Intrusive Thoughts consist of unwanted sexual thoughts. This may include fears related to one’s sexual orientation or what others might think. It may also contain mental imagery of sexual behaviors that the individual finds immoral or abhorrent. The person may fear committing a harmful sexual act or being sexually aggressive. Individuals with OCD may even suffer from unwanted intrusive thoughts about committing a sexual act with a child. This is not the same as having a sexual fantasy, being a pedophile, or being homophobic.
Examples of sexual intrusive thoughts:
- Recurrent fears of sexual acts with a child
- Recurrent worries about having a different sexual orientation
- Repetitive thoughts of touching someone inappropriately on impulse
- Unwanted sexual thoughts or images involving animals
- Distressing thoughts about sex involving religious figures
Other Intrusive Thoughts are:
- Harming loved ones or children.
- Killing others.
- Using knives or other items to harm others, which can result in a person locking away sharp objects.
- Poisoning food for loved ones, which can result in the person avoiding cooking.
How to manage intrusive thoughts
All it takes is writing down every negative idea that appears in your mind. Then you work out its truth. “I just know that everything I’ve done at work has been wrong.” Is there anything that proves that this is true? Have I caught my supervisor’s attention? What have I done differently today that I think was so bad?”
Schedule rewarding activities throughout your day. Something as simple as “quality time for myself” has very positive results. It stops your overthinking. These activities can be very simple and brief, like going out for a coffee with a friend. Give yourself a break. Buy a book, make a good meal, listen to music, etc.
Intrusive thoughts are like smoke from a chimney; it’s the heat of something that is burning inside us. That internal fire is made up of our unresolved problems that just get worse over time.
- The first step to control the focus of our thoughts, feelings, and anguish is to clarify them.How do we clarify them? By making a hierarchy of problems. A scale of concerns that goes from low to high.
- Start by writing down everything that concerns you. You’re visualizing all the chaos that is inside you, like a brainstorm.
- Next, make a hierarchy starting with what you consider small problems and ending with the most paralyzing ones that feel like too much.
- Once you have a visual order, reflect on each point. Try to think rationally and come up with solutions to each one.
Emotional Reasoning is a very common type of distortion. For example, if I had a bad day and feel frustrated, I will start to see life as an endless, dark tunnel. Another common idea is to think that if someone disappoints me, it’s because I don’t deserve love.
So another cognitive-behavioral technique that we must learn to use daily is objectivity. We cannot forget that our emotions are not always indicative of an objective truth. They are only momentary moods we must understand and manage.
“If our thinking is bogged down by distorted symbolic meanings, illogical reasoning, and erroneous interpretations, we become in effect deaf and blind.”
How to Prevent intrusive thoughts
Whether we want it or not, there are always situations tempting us to fall into the abyss of intrusive thoughts once again. One way to be attentive to these situations is to keep a diary. Something as simple as writing down your feelings each day makes you more conscious of things.
Write down whatever comes to mind. Describe the situations when you felt certain feelings. Perhaps there are people, habits, or scenarios that make you lose control or feel vulnerable.
By keeping better records of our day, we will see what these things are. We’ll be able to prevent ourselves from having a negative reaction to them (and it can even help us manage them).
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