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Intrusive Thoughts: Why We Have Them and How to Stop Them

Every day we have thousands of thoughts pass through out heads. Some of thoughts are going to be weird, uncomfortable and sometimes they can even be scary and disturbing.


You know the thought where you are driving down the road, and you suddenly picture yourself making a sharp turn into a telephone poll. Or maybe you are slicing vegetables and you imagine cutting your pinky finger off. Those are intrusive thoughts.

Knife cutting pasta on cutting board - intrusive thought

For some individuals, these thoughts can be extremely distressing, leading them to view themselves negatively. These intrusive thoughts can involve harmful actions toward loved ones, sexual obsessions, or thoughts that go against religious beliefs. However, experiencing these thoughts does not mean you dangerous, or bad.

Intrusive thoughts categorize into five different categories:

  1. Violent thoughts: hurting oneself or others or causing harm.

  2. Sexual thoughts: engaging in unwanted or inappropriate sexual activities

  3. Blasphemous thoughts: going against religious or moral beliefs.

  4. Harm-related thoughts: getting sick or being in a dangerous situation.

  5. Self-doubt thoughts: thoughts that you are not good enough or have made a mistake.


Woman curled up in fetal position on bed - intrusive thought

Importance of Understanding and Addressing Intrusive Thoughts:

Intrusive thoughts can be associated with mental health disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. However, many individuals who experience these thoughts don't have a diagnosed mental health condition. Stress and anxiety can trigger intrusive thoughts, and they might also be linked to short-term biological factors, such as hormonal changes, like after childbirth.


Understanding and addressing intrusive thoughts are crucial for several reasons:

  1. Reduction of Anxiety and Distress: Unmanaged intrusive thoughts can lead to increased anxiety and stress. Addressing them helps reduce the emotional burden and promotes mental well-being.

  2. Improved Quality of Life: Learning how to cope with intrusive thoughts can significantly improve one's overall quality of life and allow individuals to engage more fully in daily activities and relationships.

  3. Prevention of Escalation: In some cases, untreated intrusive thoughts may escalate and contribute to the development of anxiety disorders, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Early intervention can help prevent these issues.

  4. Decreased Isolation: By understanding the prevalence of intrusive thoughts, individuals can feel less isolated and realize that they are not abnormal or alone in their experiences.

  5. Empowerment and Resilience: Developing coping strategies for managing intrusive thoughts empowers individuals to take charge of their mental health and build resilience in the face of challenges.

How to Address Intrusive Thoughts: If you are experiencing intrusive thoughts, here are some practical strategies to help you cope:

  1. Mindfulness and Acceptance: Observe your thoughts without judgment and practice accepting that they are temporary and not a reflection of your character.

  2. Challenge Negative Beliefs: Question the validity of intrusive thoughts and challenge their accuracy. Remember that thoughts are not facts.

  3. Grounding Techniques: Engage your senses in the present moment to redirect your focus away from intrusive thoughts.

  4. Seek Support: Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional about your experiences. Sharing your thoughts can help reduce their impact.

  5. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Consider CBT, a highly effective therapy for addressing intrusive thoughts, which helps reframe negative thought patterns.

male client talking to female therapist - intrusive thoughts

Intrusive thoughts are a common human experience, and there is no shame in having them. Understanding their nature, prevalence, and potential impact can help us navigate them more effectively. By adopting coping strategies and seeking support, individuals can manage intrusive thoughts, reduce distress, and promote their mental well-being.


If intrusive thoughts have been affecting your daily life and causing distress, it's time to take action and regain control of your mental well-being. At Aligned Minds Counseling and Therapy, we are here to help you navigate through the maze of intrusive thoughts and anxiety with compassionate and evidence-based approaches.


Book online or give us a call at 587-606-4099 to schedule your appointment. Remember, you are not alone, and support is just a call away. Let's work together to achieve lasting positive change and embrace a healthier, happier you. Your journey to healing starts now with Aligned Minds Counseling and Therapy.


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