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How Can I Stop Intrusive Thoughts?

Danielle Bertini, LPC

Intrusive thoughts are something that we all experience from time to time. You may be thinking, “What are intrusive thoughts anyway?” These are unwanted thoughts or images that pop into your head for no reason and can cause you to become somewhat obsessed or distressed. These thoughts can be no different from any other thought we might have. However, it is our attached to these thoughts that cause the real disturbance. 

Again, intrusive thoughts are normal, however some are more affected by them than others. Invasive thoughts can take the form of fears of the future, intrusive memories from the past, inappropriate thoughts (such as sexual intrusive thoughts), intrusive images, as well as a variety of other disturbing thoughts. An example could even be the thought, “What if I were to drive my car over this bridge right now?” This is obviously not a pleasant or wanted thought, but it can be something that just passes through your mind. However, the issue is when we become fixated on these thoughts. Northpoint Recovery (2020) offers 5 tips to stop intrusive thoughts.  


  • Understand Why Intrusive Thoughts Disturb You


Intrusive thoughts often latch onto things that are important to you, such as your family, your job, animals, etc. For example, if something pops into your mind that you are going to hurt your family, it’s going to get your attention. There can be many intrusive thoughts that enter your mind, but it’s the ones that go against your core values that become intrusive. With this in mind, understanding your core values can help you understand these unwanted thoughts. And the more you understand something, the more you can begin to take control of them.


  • Attend the Intrusive Thoughts


When intrusive thoughts come to mind, you might react as though they are real. However, accepting intrusive thoughts is the key to working through them. They no longer mean anything to you when you simply acknowledge them. This means you don’t try to figure out what it all means or to try and work around them. These actions can cause you to pay extra attention to the thoughts. 


  • Don’t Fear the Thoughts


It might seem scary to embrace these intrusive thoughts rather than avoid them, especially when they are rooted in fear. However, that is exactly what you should do. Accept that the thought is there. You may feel some tension in your body, but that will pass. Trying to run and hide from the thoughts and replacing it with fear only amplifies the thoughts.


  • Take Intrusive Thoughts Less Personally 


Even though intrusive thoughts are not real, we still tend to believe them. It’s important to not take these thoughts personally. You can reason with yourself by saying something like, “This thought could be a reality but the chances are pretty slim. I won’t worry about it right now. Everything is okay at this moment.”


  • Stop Changing Your Behaviors


Going off of the tip above, these intrusive thoughts are not real, so changing your reality to try and work around it is not a solution. Trying to change your life around these intrusive thoughts to try and avoid them will only keep the cycle going. For example, if you have intrusive thoughts about kids, avoiding parties is only going to make things worse.


Northpoint Staff. (2020, September 25). Tips to Help Stop Intrusive Thoughts. 

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