Intrusive Thoughts.....What do They Mean and why do We Have Them?

Intrusive Thoughts-What do They Mean and why do We Have Them.jpg

So many clients speak about thoughts that they have; that they find distressing, distracting and concerning so I thought I’d write a blog about these types of thoughts and set the story straight.

So, what kind of thoughts am I talking about? Have you ever thought of, whilst travelling at a high speed, driving your car into another? Wow, who would think of something like that – well me! The thought I just described is called an intrusive thought, we ALL have them and they can be based on varying situations. Some more common situations are around stabbing a loved one, pushing someone from a train platform, harming a child and the list could go on.

People, unless they know any different, are often really concerned by their intrusive thoughts and feel an array for feelings for being able to think of such things. The feelings associated with intrusive thoughts, should someone be worried, are often shame, doubt, craziness, fear and psychotic - I’m hoping; that by a) writing this blog and b) disclosing that I as a therapist have intrusive thoughts, I manage to show that there is no need for all that torture – you’re normal!

There’s a distinct difference in thinking these types of thoughts and wanting to or even going out and doing them. The reason an intrusive thought appears in the first place is because it’s the worst imaginable situation or event that we can imagine; imagine being the operative word as these are never acted upon. Let me give you some practical advice here too – the harder you try to push the thoughts from out of your mind, the more likely they are to stick around. This works on a similar principle to being told not to touch that iron because it’s hot and you end up touching it to check the validity in it; if you tell yourself not to think about suffocating your child, when you check if you’ve succeeded in this, you invite the thought right there and then. My advice instead would be to share your thoughts, they can sometimes create great discussion and humour and you will see that others share their intrusive thoughts and reassure yourself that your thoughts and you are normal.

Like all human behaviours, intrusive thoughts fall onto a continuum from being ‘normal’ (in accordance to the majority of the population) and disordered, which is when the behaviour has a negative impact on your daily living. If you’re familiar with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) you’ll know that we can all have traits of the disorder i.e. like our towels to be hung a certain way or for the pots to be stacked a certain way – we like control, but these do not impinge on our functioning and relationships. When the fear of intrusive thoughts cause a person to avoid situations that may trigger them or the person partakes in behaviours to sooth themselves, such as excessive hand cleaning or touching something 3 times, these can have a marked impact on daily life and relationships; this is when you should seek some professional support.

There are lots of articles you could go onto reading about intrusive thoughts and I’m confident you will receive the same information – that your thoughts are nothing to worry about. Help bust the myth that you’re crazy, break from your shame and be confident that they’re just thoughts – have them and let them pass – they can’t hurt you and of course you know you would never act on them.