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Intrusive thoughts: why they appear and how to manage them

Intrusive thoughts: why they appear and how to manage them

May 6, 2021

Have you ever been immersed in a loop of thoughts that you do not know how to get out of? Have you experienced the unpleasant sensation of not being able to "expel" from your mind an idea that harms you? As if it were a catchy song, do you feel unable to think clearly because the background melody of some repetitive thought is continuously playing?

If you think that these examples explain your situation, it is very possible that you are a habitual victim of intrusive thoughts . Next we will see what they are exactly.

The intrusive thoughts

Obsessions are intrusive, repetitive and disturbing thoughts that remain in our minds for long periods despite attempts to fight or flee from them. They are those intrusive thoughts that we do not want to have, because we are aware of their uselessness / dysfunctionality and that nevertheless end up coming to us again and again, disturbing our calm and making it difficult to concentrate.


If you do not work on them, these intrusive thoughts can end up becoming the axis of our lives , because while we put all our attention on them, we exclude the reality that surrounds us. We feel unable to redirect our attention to other stimuli because obsessive thinking governs everything. Thinking and rethinking things is perhaps one of the most frequent problems of our society, being a source of problems of anxiety, suffering, disability ...

In what way are obsessions generated?

Obsessions appear because people have developed the illusion of absolute controllability. We want to have everything under our control because we have not learned to tolerate uncertainty, but this illusion collapses again and again to see that certain circumstances in life are uncontrollable , for example, diseases or the behavior of others.


Obsessive thoughts can also appear when we see ourselves in the situation of having to make a decision and not knowing what to choose within the possibilities. We go around for days, months or even years falling into the trap of immobilizing obsession, without realizing that not deciding is deciding.

Giorgio Nardone He exposes in his book "I think then I suffer" that doubts are the launching pad of our creative thinking, but also the spring of obsessive thinking. In the first case the doubt is dominated and oriented, leading to the discovery of new thoughts. In the second, it is fought and repressed, and becomes the tyrant who persecutes thought.

Since it is very likely that we never have the certainty that the decision we make is appropriate, it is advisable to take the time strictly necessary to assess the pros and cons and then decide, taking responsibility that it is possible that we were wrong and learning to give up the path we have decided not to take.


Dispute between thoughts

Our conscious being tends to rationally reject those intrusive thoughts that trouble us . It is normal, because if you stop to think you will realize that there is enough stressful facts to live with a constant discomfort if our attention can not disengage from them.

Therefore, it is likely that sometimes a fight between rational thoughts and irrational or uncomfortable thoughts is triggered. On the one hand, those uncomfortable thoughts, to "be prohibited" they have a lot of potential when it comes to attracting our attention . On the other, the part of thoughts and feelings that we can tolerate does not have to be strong enough to "cover" all of our reality, without leaving gaps.

However, the paradox occurs that to think that we do not want to think about something is to focus our attention on it, and the frustration of wanting to erase a thought from our mind and get the opposite effect: to strengthen it.

How can we manage intrusive thoughts?

Obsessive thoughts are a symptom that warns us of something. That is why one of the first steps should be to pull the thread (only if we are trained, or in the company of a trained professional) to discover where they come from and why they stay and work on it from the root .

Otherwise, the cause that pushes those intrusive thoughts into our consciousness will continue to do so, and not only that, but little by little we will succumb to the force of stress. Therefore, we must go beyond the immediate symptoms and look for causes that explain this phenomenon.

In addition to this, we can use a series of Tactics to manage intrusive thoughts properly and diminish its impact on our lives.

1. Decline of thoughts

Discover and accept that you are not your thoughts.You do not decide what comes or does not reach your mind, but you can select what interests you and you want to stay, and the other send it to the SPAM folder .

When thought appears, it is useless to fight against it, for it will become stronger. Investigate why that appears in your mind and then decide if you should focus on it. If not, say goodbye and visualize how it goes.

It is an exercise that requires effort and training, and it is normal that at first you see that the results are not as expected or that you have a hard time disconnecting. But if you work constantly you will discover that they end up losing strength and disappearing.

Carrying out activities that encourage concentration, attention and self-control.

Training your mind in techniques such as meditation, yoga or Mindfulness will help you gain self-control over your own thoughts and you will learn to focus your attention in other areas when recurring thoughts appear.

2. Performing physical exercise frequently

Thoughts are energy, and it is much easier to control them when we have released the excess energy that our body generates. Therefore, daily physical exercise will help us to have a clearer and more relaxed mind and to decrease the intensity of recurrent thoughts.

3. Daily dedication to thinking about disturbing thinking

If you have been thinking about a certain thought for a long time , and you do not see yourself able to leave it alone, dedicate 15 minutes a day, always at the same time and in the same place to think only and exclusively about it. You can take notes and leave your thoughts in writing to gain productivity, but as soon as the alarm sounds that warns you that the quarter of an hour has passed, you can not think about it again until the next day.

4. Avoid continually talking about recurring thoughts

Seek tranquility or the opinion of people continuously is a double-edged sword . On the other hand it produces a temporary relief or "relief" but on the other it encourages and reinforces the maintenance of the problem as well as the feeling that we are not able to solve it ourselves, which generates feelings of low self-esteem and interpersonal dependence.

When is it necessary to contact a professional?

If the recurring thoughts have become an obsessive vicious circle that you do not see yourself capable of letting go, they affect your daily life and considerably reduce your quality of life, It is recommended that you visit a specialist with whom you can analyze your situation , discover the causes of the appearance and maintenance of obsessions, and learn tools that will enable you to learn to think in a healthier and more effective way.


Treatment for Children with OCD (May 2021).


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