What Are Intrusive Thoughts?

Understanding what intrusive thoughts are and how they can impact mental health is essential for living a healthy, functional life. Defined as disturbing thoughts that can severely impact one’s quality of life, intrusive thoughts can appear in the form of words, pictures, or sounds. They vary from person to person and are often experienced by those who have anxiety or depression. 

Oddly enough, intrusive thoughts are incredibly normal despite the anxiety surrounding them. They serve as a way to protect people from harm, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional pain. Even though they serve a good purpose, they often will harm individuals when not dealt with properly. For some people, intrusive thoughts can get in the way of living their functional, everyday lives.

The Dangers

When not dealt with in a healthy, direct way, intrusive thoughts can begin to control your life in a concerning manner. Many find that suppressing these thoughts will offer relief from the fear and stress they cause, but this relief is temporary and will manifest in worse ways. 

For example, if someone is suppressing intrusive thoughts involving their partner potentially being unfaithful, these thoughts may manifest themselves by causing tension in the relationship. The person suppressing these thoughts may begin to lash out at their partner or even accuse them of being a bad person. Effects like these can occur because intrusive thoughts are never dealt with. This means that the potential that their partner is unfaithful still exists within their subconscious mind, thus creating feelings of fear, mistrust, and resentment. 

Intrusive thoughts can prevent you from attaining personal goals for yourself. These goals can be long-term or short-term and related to your career, your relationships, mental health, physical health, or artistic visions. Because they can be so consuming when not appropriately acknowledged, they can distract you from daily activities and obligations such as homework, cleaning your home, projects for work, and even providing food for yourself. 

What This Means For Recovery

To cope with the adverse effects of intrusive thoughts, some may turn to substances to self-medicate and find relief from those effects. In this way, many can become subject to addiction or relapse. 

Life is filled with various stressors, no matter what we do. No one can control this fact of life. While these situations are not impossible to deal with, when a person is struggling with intrusive thoughts that alter the way they see the world around them, these difficult times may feel especially consuming and troublesome. Situations like these could make it easy to relapse if a person is trying to stay sober. That added stress level without a perceived way to escape could likely lead one to begin turning to drugs or alcohol.

Coping With Intrusive Thoughts

Learning and developing healthy coping methods for dealing with intrusive thoughts is imperative to avoid engaging in any concerning behaviors or actions. Below are steps for coping with concerning intrusive thoughts:

#1. Identify and Acknowledge the Thought

Giving attention to the fact that a person is experiencing an intrusive thought can help them begin to navigate through it. Acknowledging that an individual has a thought specifically can help separate them from the mere thought that they are temporarily experiencing.

#2. Take Deep Breaths

Deep breathing for only two or three minutes (especially after experiencing unnerving intrusive thoughts) can help restore peace and safety within the body. Even if a person can recognize that they are experiencing an intrusive thought, they may slip back into the grip of intrusive thoughts if their nervous system is still activated. Try breathing for a few minutes or more to remind your mind and body that everything is okay.

#3. Change the Focus

After acknowledging the intrusive thought and taking time to restore peace in the body, a helpful thing can be refocusing on a more practical, peaceful activity. Doing so can help to train the mind to let go of all thoughts, especially intrusive thoughts. Giving intrusive thoughts focus always ends badly with feelings of anxiety and fear controlling decisions. To avoid this, refocusing attention to more important, help activities such as reading, journaling, or taking a bath can offer peace and promote growth.

#4. Reach Out to a Professional

Getting help from a professional is always a helpful way to learn how to work through intrusive thoughts. Reaching out to a therapist, psychologist, success coach, or other trained professional can offer many new tools to change how one views and handles these scary thoughts occurring within the mind. These individuals are trained to give the help a person needs to grow. 

Knowing how to navigate intrusive thoughts can be exceptionally troubling. Even though experiencing these thoughts is normal for everyone, coping with these thoughts can be difficult for many. Not effectively dealing with intrusive thoughts can interfere with your relationships, personal goals, and your recovery. Due to the added stress that intrusive thoughts may cause, turning to substances to cope may begin to seem like the only option. By practicing strategies from trained professionals, you can learn how to deal with these unwanted thoughts. Intrusive thoughts can be overwhelming to handle alone; that is why at Rickard Elmore Treatment Strategies, we want to remind you that we offer solutions and relief that won’t compromise your sobriety. We are committed to ensuring you have access to healthy coping mechanisms that help you to flourish. Call us today at (877) 387-7197 to learn more about how we can help. You can get started on your path to healing with Rickard Elmore.