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Intrusive thoughts

The human brain has a great imaginative and creative capacity. We know that the human being is a thinking being and that is one of the qualities that make him human. Thousands of thoughts run through our minds all the time, including some that are considered violent or disturbing. Commonly, unwanted thoughts fade as quickly as they appear, because if they are not relevant we tend to ignore them. In some cases, thoughts occur so frequently that they can often weaken a person’s mental health.

What are intrusive thoughts?

Intrusive thinking is a thought that invades the subject’s mind without the subject having sought to bring it to consciousness. These involuntary thoughts can range from: concerns about health, concern for loved ones, for nature, or even irrational fears that linger in the mind.

About 2% of the population experience unwanted recurring thoughts.  Invasive, repetitive and unwanted thoughts   burst into the conscious mind  when least expected and generate great states of anxiety and negative side effects in the individual .

Every thought remains attached to the psyche because the emotional reaction it has in it is its power of adherence. According to the importance we give to thought and how we react to them, its power of adherence within the psyche will be, and it will also determine how it influences us in our daily life.

Often these thoughts come to the mind of the subject accompanied by previous experiences or traumatic events that have occurred. When these thoughts occur, they generally cause the subject a state of worry, obsession, anguish and anxiety. People who are anxious about these thoughts often have panic attacks.

Some subjects have intrusive thoughts only when they are overwhelmed by stress , others can present them while they are eating, lying down or watching a movie, because the intrusive thought varies according to each person.

The appearance of intrusive thoughts cannot be controlled, since they are thoughts driven by the unconscious , therefore they cannot be eliminated from the mind either.

Side effects of intrusive thoughts

Types of intrusive thoughts

The most common intrusive thoughts can be: violent intrusive thoughts, sexual intrusive thoughts or intrusive thoughts about traumatic memories.

Violent intrusive thoughts

Violent and aggressive thoughts are common in people with any type of anxiety, especially those with personality disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder , intermittent explosive disorder, or antisocial personality disorder . In general, these are thoughts in which the person imagines himself doing violent or aggressive things.

Sexual thoughts

Like violent thoughts, a person can have intrusive thoughts of a sexual nature. These sexual thoughts can be combined with shame, incestuous thoughts or forbidden desires, while other times the sexual thoughts can also be somewhat violent in nature.

Thoughts of traumatic memories

Many people experience lingering and unwanted memories.  One of the most common cases where these types of intrusive thoughts manifest is in  people with post-traumatic stress disorder. Those who have lived through situations or episodes that may have caused psychological trauma will be especially prone to suffering from these disturbing memories. Also those with anxiety and depression are more likely to have these disturbing memories at unwanted times.

How to avoid intrusive thoughts?

Although these thoughts cannot be controlled when they appear, the influence they will have on our mind can be controlled.

Intrusive thoughts feed on the emotional reaction that the subject presents to them – the more importance it is given, the longer they remain latent.

To eliminate negative thought patterns, there needs to be an attitude change along with specific visualization tools.

There is a big difference between eliminating negative thought patterns and wanting to eliminate thinking for good.  Studies of thought suppression (Wegner, Schneider, Carter & White, 1987) have shown that the very act of trying to suppress a thought only results in more and more frequent repetitions of unwanted intrusive thoughts occurring – to which called “The rebound effect of thought” -.

A good way to avoid these thoughts is by taking relaxation exercises:  doing yoga, a good massage session, acupuncture, Pilates, or just sitting on the couch at home and concentrating on your breathing .

The practice of sports and physical exercise is a good way to discourage intrusive thinking, because while exercising, your mind fixes its attention on the body and on the exercises, in this way the intrusive thought goes into the background and continues long.

Intrusive thoughts and their relationship with obsessive-compulsive disorder

When someone has obsessive compulsive personality disorder , the intrusive thoughts are amplified. In these cases the person may experience chronic distress or depression associated with intrusive thoughts.

You may also be interested in:   Types of psychotherapy

In those with this disorder, intrusive thoughts are considered “obsessions,” since the person cannot stop the negative thinking. These people often resort to their compulsive behavior in an effort to get rid of that invasive thinking.

Another way that intrusive thoughts manifest within obsessive-compulsive disorder is through fear. Those who are afraid of something tend to see the object of fear everywhere, for example: if they are afraid of flies, they can see them in everything and finally believe that contact with them can cause a disease -which can become in a psychomatization-.

When to consult a specialist?

If intrusive thoughts occur constantly and do not let you continue with your daily routine, a good solution to cope with them may be psychotherapy . In this, the subject will be able to discuss those thoughts that invade and disturb him with his psychotherapist, and this will help him to understand them and get to the focus of those thoughts to know why they persist in his mind.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective in helping to manage intrusive thoughts. Cognitive behavioral therapists are trained to teach people to control their intrusive thoughts. They can also provide helpful tools and methods for you to use at home and improve your ability to stay calm when these thoughts occur. In the long term, patients will learn to discover ways to control their anxiety, as this anxiety is usually the cause of these intrusive thoughts.

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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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