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Intrusive thoughts are thoughts, images, ideas or scenarios that are totally involuntary and although they happen to pretty much everyone at some point, they are particularly present with mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
The thoughts themselves will vary depending on the person, but they can often spiral out of control and become really hard to stop thinking about to the point where they become an obsession.
Intrusive thoughts take up 60 percent of my day.
For example, I have intrusive thoughts about home invasion, it is something that occupies my mind for about 60 percent of the day, which has actually gone down since I had cognitive behavioral therapy. My fear of people coming into my house stems from something that happened to me as a child, but it has never left me.
These thoughts creep into my brain at any time whether I am awake or I am asleep. They make me edgy, jumpy, and nervous. I don't think I ever really relax properly because at the back of my mind, I am always concerned about someone breaking in.
I know every escape route in my house and I know that there is a weapon in every room. I keep a weapon and a torch directly next to my bed and there are five locks on my front and back doors, but I still don't think that's enough.
I am trying to control my intrusive thoughts.
And for those of you reading it, it might sound like my intrusive thoughts are totally out of control, but compared to what they used to be like, they are under control. I used to be totally convinced every day that someone was going to break into my home, but now I don't always think that they are, I am just prepared if they do. When I lived alone, I would sleep on the couch because my bedroom was too quiet, I couldn't hear what was happening in the halls of my flat.
I slept for maybe three hours a night and I became totally paranoid.
But when I began seeing a cognitive behavioral therapist (Dave), he started to make me realize that I could have some sort of control over my thoughts rather than my thoughts controlling me.
Stop trying to ignore intrusive thoughts.
I was making the mistake of trying to ignore my intrusive thoughts, and trying to ignore a thought is like trying not to concentrate on your breathing, suddenly it becomes all you can think about. Dave taught me that I need to face my thoughts and accept them, and stop trying to ignore them because that's when they really started to spiral out of control.
Everyone has intrusive thoughts, so it doesn't make you weird or anything, but ignoring them only gives them more power. Accepting that you have them and that you might always have them is the first step to moving forward.
Deal with your intrusive thoughts.
As I said before, trying to ignore an intrusive thought will have the opposite effect, it will become all you can think of. The best way to get rid of an intrusive thought is to allow it to happen, and deal with it.
How you deal with it will be up to you, but Dave suggested that I stop for a second and think about the thought and question the reality of it. Is that really going to happen? What are the actual chances of that? Am I overreacting?
Try to be as logical as you can and this will help to take the power away from your intrusive thoughts and make it easier to deal with them.
Try to stop your routines.
Combine dealing with your intrusive thoughts with stopping the routines you normally perform to cope with them. The thoughts trigger the routines, which then give more power to the thoughts. Do your best to stop, or at least cut back on your routines.
Therapy for Intrusive Thoughts
If you are dealing with severe intrusive thoughts, I would recommend you speak to a doctor about it, they will be able to refer you to a therapist who can help you challenge the way you think.
Intrusive thoughts are normal.
Everyone has intrusive thoughts at one time, it's totally normal, but when your thoughts start making your life difficult, you need to get some help to conquer them.