Intrusive thoughts - how to cope (you're not crazy and you're not alone)
Updated: Aug 18, 2022
I used to (and still do) suffer from intrusive thoughts, which are a form of ANXIETY. I used to think I was the only one and that I was going crazy until a therapist recently told me - hey, did you know that intrusive thoughts are actually a form of anxiety? So now I realize… I'm not crazy AND I also can recognize that my intrusive thoughts are trying to GIVE ME A MESSAGE. The message is not that the content of the intrusive thought is in any way true - rather, the message is, LOOK INSIDE YOURSELF. See what's bothering you, something is stressing you out, and go do something about that.
Your brain is like a puppy - it will fetch images and thoughts that will help you feel MORE of the way you're feeling. So if you're feeling happy, your brain will fetch you more happiness-inducing thoughts. If you're feeling worried, your brain will give you MORE to be worried about. Therefore, intrusive thoughts are telling you - "Hey! There's something here that's upsetting you/worrying you/stressing you out!" See them as a call-to-action rather than a vilification of who you are.
So, here are the steps to take if you struggle with intrusive thoughts.
Recognize that "this is a thought. This is not TRUE or FACT - it's simply a thought." this helps separate the thought from you, helps you to put it somewhere outside of yourself rather than feeling like the thought IS you.
Ask yourself: What's going on with me right now that's stressing me out? My brain is feeding me this thought because I'm already feeling stressed or anxious about something, so what am I feeling anxious about? Journal about this or call a trusted friend.
Do something to help relieve the stress. Going outside in nature helps, physical activity helps, slowing down and doing something relaxing could help as well. You can also take positive steps towards feeling more prepared about whatever it is that's stressing you out, and/or you can engage in helpful self-talk, reminding yourself of how capable you are, and that even if this thing doesn't go well, you are still a worthwhile person. Take the pressure off of whatever it is that's bothering you.
If the thought won't leave, try changing the thought just a bit. For example, if you're worried about your kid falling and getting hurt, alter the part where they get hurt to them laughing and saying "I want to do that again!" This can be really helpful when you're not able to create enough distance from the thought or if it keeps coming back to you.
Remember - intrusive thoughts are just THOUGHTS and you are NOT crazy for having them! Nor are you going to manifest awful things.
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Helpful video on intrusive thoughts:
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