OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, affects more than 2 million people in America alone, about 1% of the population (NIMH). OCD symptoms come in a wide variety, but one of the most common ones is intrusive thoughts – unwanted and repetitive ideas, mental images or impulses that cause distress. Living with OCD can be really hard but it is quite normal these days. Intrusive thoughts are constant, and they follow you around. You can't escape them even in your own head! The more a person with OCD perseveres on these unwanted mental images or impulses - the worse off he/she becomes as it affects everything from moods to functioning at work but there are many ways you can overcome all the obstacles. Your life doesn't have to stay this way.
A new study found that more than 94% of people have unwanted, intrusive thoughts and impulses. These can range from feeling contaminated with bacteria, an unwanted image of you burning down your own house, or wanting to suddenly hurt someone else suddenly.
The struggle to be normal is real, and you don't have to get overwhelmed or worried about it. Almost 94% of students said they'd had unwanted and intrusive thoughts during the past three months, with over two-thirds (67%) reporting more than once a week for at least four days in that period. We are always here to help you out in each and every manner and we make sure to see life in a different and unique perspective.
What are Intrusive Thoughts?
The term 'Intrusive thoughts' is generally used to describe the repetitive nature of the unwanted, intrusive images, ideas, or impulses that are difficult to get rid of. They are a common symptom of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), in which they often focus on common obsessions, such as contamination, religion, harm to self or others, doubts, and order or symmetry. Intrusive thoughts in OCD can also contain violent or sexual thoughts and images.
Apart from being common in OCD, they are also common in anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder.
How to Overcome OCD Intrusive Thoughts?
Many people struggle to overcome intrusive thoughts. Here are some of the ways we can overcome intrusive thoughts, if we follow this consistently.
A common practice used to calm yourself is meditation. If you’re already familiar with meditating, you probably know that it takes patience and time to be present at the moment. However, daily practice of meditation definitely helps to calm your mind and soul. It helps to remove negative energy from your body. It overall refreshes your soul.
Letting go of guilt and shame
One part of overcoming intrusive thoughts is to stop feeling guilty or shameful about having them. Rather than keeping your feelings in and letting them build up, let them out. The next time an intrusive thought comes into your head, turn it into a funny voice and laugh at it.
Affirmations are statements that help you achieve your goals. They're short, powerful words designed to positively impact how we think about ourselves and the world around us by forming our reality according to what is said in an affirmation. One of the most difficult parts about overcoming intrusive thoughts is the negative thoughts you have about yourself. Affirmations are great for changing your thinking patterns. An affirmation reminds you of who you really are and what you want in your life. It will help you to induce positive energy into your body by removing your intrusive thoughts.
Example: “I am proud of my efforts to deal with my anxiety” or “I can handle the anxiety and tolerate the unknown.”
Say "no" to the thoughts
Saying "no" out loud when an intrusive thought appears is quite effective. It puts a stop sign to the thought and prevents it from snowballing into a process of overthinking.
One of the best OCD intrusive thoughts treatments is mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness is not as difficult as it may sound. Simply try to focus on what's happening in front of you or around you. How does the chair feel under you? What do the sounds around you actually sound like? What does the air smell and taste like? How does it feel when your clothes move against your skin? If intrusive thoughts come in, divert yourself.
Medication for OCD Intrusive Thoughts
Self-help options are not always enough. If you or someone you know is experiencing distressing, repetitive thoughts, it may be time to seek out professional treatment. In some cases, OCD intrusive thought treatment options may include medication.
Medication for OCD can help relieve its symptoms, among which are intrusive thoughts. They affect the activity of neurotransmitters in your brain, such as serotonin or dopamine.
However, not all OCD medications work the same for everyone. The medication that works best for one person may not necessarily work well for another. Side effects also vary from person to person. Finding the right medication for you may take a few tries, but in the end it will help.
Therapy for OCD Intrusive Thoughts
Lastly, there is always the option of psychotherapy. Therapy can treat your intrusive thoughts and OCD appropriately. Different therapeutic approaches tackle intrusive thoughts in different ways. Among them are:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT and Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) are the most common forms of OCD treatment. There is research done by Dr. Hyun Kim (2016) to show that there were significant changes in OCD symptoms after CBT and ERP were implemented for OCD patients.
Although these types of therapy may be extremely effective for those who suffer from OCD, they can be expensive and time-consuming since you have to go into a therapist's office and pay them by the hour. Luckily there are other therapeutic options such as online therapy.
ERP is a therapy that involves OCD sufferers exposing themself to disturbing thoughts/images/urges without performing any compulsion. So, if someone has OCD about their door being unlocked and they need to lock it, they would sit in front of the door for hours before actually locking it or go back ten times to make sure it's locked. This would make OCD sufferers go crazy, and OCD is already driving them insane as it is.
In ERP, the goal is for patients to confront their fears without compulsions. They're purposefully exposed to situations that stimulate those thoughts and then asked sit with them rather than engage in a behavior such as washing or checking over-and-over again until they pass out from sheer panic.
A form of CBT where you learn how okay it feels when your anxiety gets intense.
More therapists see that they don't have to rely on traditional methods but that we live in a digital era where everyone has access to the internet. When you have OCD, it can be hard to go outside your house sometimes because OCD will make you fear things out of your control.
Some of the pros of online therapy are:
- OCD patients can do OCD online therapy from the comfort of their own homes.
- OCD sufferers are more likely to seek help because OCD is taboo, and they can go online without anyone knowing they have OCD. This also makes OCD sufferers more comfortable since they don't feel judged by their therapist behind closed doors.
- OCD therapy is often more effective because OCD sufferers are doing OCD therapy in the privacy of their own homes.
The Bottom Line
If you are still confused you can read blogs of other people with the same issues. Intrusive thoughts are not a sign of weakness. They are merely part of being human. Humans naturally want to make sense of their surroundings and, therefore, model real-life situations into paradigms that are easy to process. Intrusive thoughts are no different; we all have them, and they do not mean that we will act upon them. If you are one of those people with the most profound intrusive thoughts, you can do online therapy on DoMental, which provides effective results. It is important to know that it is common for people to struggle with intrusive thoughts, especially those concerned about harming others or themselves.