6 Ways to Manage Intrusive Thoughts

You cannot control what comes into your mind, but you can control how long you dwell on it.

Intrusive thoughts occur involuntarily and are distressing or disruptive. They are triggered by a variety of factors, such as stress, anxiety, or trauma. If left unmanaged, these negative thoughts can significantly impact our mental health and overall well-being.

Here are some of the most common types of intrusive thoughts:

  1. Violent or aggressive thoughts: These thoughts may involve harming oneself or others, such as hitting someone or pushing someone off a ledge.
  2. Sexual thoughts: Intrusive sexual thoughts may involve taboo or inappropriate sexual behavior, such as engaging in sexual activity with a family member or a minor.
  3. Contamination or hygiene-related thoughts: These thoughts may involve fear of germs or contamination, and may include intrusive thoughts about touching dirty objects or being contaminated by germs.
  4. Perfectionism-related thoughts: These thoughts may involve obsessive thoughts about making mistakes, failing, or not being perfect.
  5. Relationship-related thoughts: These thoughts may involve doubts about one’s own feelings or the feelings of a partner, or fears about the relationship ending.

Intrusive thoughts are a normal part of the human experience and are often caused by stress or anxiety. However, if these thoughts are causing significant distress or interfering with daily life, it may be helpful to seek the advice of a mental health professional.

In this blog post, I will explore strategies for managing intrusive thoughts. By learning how to manage intrusive thoughts, we can cultivate a more positive mindset and improve our overall quality of life.

Below you will find six steps for managing intrusive thoughts.

1. Create a plan for dealing with triggers:

Identify the situations or triggers that tend to bring up intrusive thoughts, and create a plan for dealing with them. For example, if you know that watching the news makes you anxious, limit your exposure to news media or set aside specific times of the day to check the news. Being proactive in managing triggers can help reduce the frequency and intensity of intrusive thoughts.

2. Recognize and accept the thoughts:

Acknowledge the negative thoughts as they come up and accept that they are a normal part of the human experience. Trying to push them away can actually make them more persistent.

3. Challenge the thoughts:

Once you’ve recognized the intrusive thought, challenge it with evidence-based reasoning. Ask yourself if the thoughts are based on reality, and if they’re not, try to reframe them in a more positive light.

4. Reframe the thoughts:

Instead of dwelling on intrusive thoughts, try to reframe them in a more positive or neutral light. For example, if you find yourself thinking “I’m a failure,” try replacing it with “I’m learning and growing.”

5. Engage in mindfulness techniques:

Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing, can help you become more aware of your thoughts and develop a greater sense of control over them. This can help you manage intrusive thoughts more effectively. Please review my post, “7 Techniques for Practicing Mindfulness.

6. Engage in positive activities:

Engaging in positive activities, such as exercise or spending time with loved ones, can help distract you from intrusive thoughts and improve your mood.

Final Thoughts

Remember, managing intrusive thoughts is a process that takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and celebrate small successes along the way. With time and practice, you can learn to manage intrusive thoughts and improve your overall well-being.

Contact Me

If you are struggling with anxiety, and need help, please contact me, Dr. Christine Dickson, clinical psychologist. My practice focuses on mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy, which is an evidence-based treatment for anxiety disorders. Please reach out to me today through my website.

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