Why Do We Have Intrusive Thoughts? - Deepstash
Why Do We Have Intrusive Thoughts?

Why Do We Have Intrusive Thoughts?

healthline.com

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Intrusive thoughts seem to come out of nowhere

Intrusive thoughts seem to come out of nowhere

  • These thoughts and images are unwanted and often unpleasant. The content can sometimes be aggressive or sexual, or you could suddenly think about a mistake or a worry.
  • You might feel distressed when this happens, but having an intrusive thought once in a while is a typical part of life.
  • In most cases, intrusive thoughts do not have any particular meaning. As long as you recognize that these are only thoughts, and you have no desire to act on them, intrusive thoughts are not harmful.
  • However, if they’re happening often, causing significant concern, or interfering with your daily activities, it’s a good idea to talk with a doctor.

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Types of intrusive thoughts

Some people may have intrusive thoughts about:

  • germs, infections, or other kinds of contamination
  • violent acts, aggression, or causing harm to other people
  • doubts about doing tasks wrong or leaving tasks unfinished
  • religion, blasphemy, or being an immoral person
  • sexual acts or situations
  • acting out or saying the wrong thing in public

It’s also possible to have other types of intrusive thoughts that do not fit into these categories.

Sometimes, people who experience intrusive thoughts become worried about what they mean. This can lead to someone trying to control or stop the thoughts. People may also feel ashamed and want to keep them secret from others. Keep in mind that the image or thought might be disturbing, but it does not usually have a particular meaning.

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Are intrusive thoughts normal?

It’s common to have an intrusive thought every once in a while. In fact, it happens to almost everyone.

Although intrusive thoughts are usually nothing to worry about, sometimes they can start to interfere with your daily life.

People who feel fear or guilt about their intrusive thoughts, or feel like they need to take action to control the thoughts, may be experiencing something more serious. If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to talk with a doctor.

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What causes intrusive thoughts?

Intrusive thoughts may not have a cause. They can just happen randomly. Some thoughts wander into your brain. Then just as quickly, they exit, leaving no lasting impression.

Less commonly, intrusive thoughts are related to an underlying mental health condition, like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These thoughts could also be a symptom of another health issue, such as:

  • brain injury
  • dementia
  • Parkinson’s disease

Signs that there might be an underlying cause include intrusive thoughts that:

  • last longer than a brief moment
  • continue to pop back into your head
  • cause distress over time
  • make you feel like you need to control your thoughts.

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How to manage intrusive thoughts

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): you’ll work with a therapist to learn ways of thinking that can help you become less sensitive to intrusive thoughts. In a controlled setting, your therapist may also expose you to triggers for your intrusive thoughts so you can learn to react to them differently.
  • Medication. Sometimes, medications are used to treat conditions like OCD and PTSD.
  • Self-care. A good step toward treating intrusive thoughts is recognizing what they are: just thoughts. You can learn to label them when they happen and recognize that thoughts are not the same as intent or behavior.

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CURATED BY

devilee

Therapist

Intrusive thoughts are unexpected images or thoughts that seem to pop into your head.

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