Does anyone have intrusive thoughts? If so, how do you get passed them when they come in? I’m really struggling to get out of the cycle of letting my mind running in circles.
This is a great question! Yes, you can gain relief from distress caused by intrusive thoughts or eliminate them completely.
Many people experience thoughts or images that go through their minds, some people are able to brush them off while others struggle with letting the thoughts or images go.
Intrusive by its very definition is a disruption or annoyance which is unwelcomed or uninvited. Having intrusive thoughts are known as obsessions which can become compulsions when acted upon behaviorally, as a way to cope with the intrusive thought. Another name given to these thoughts is negative automatic thoughts (NAT). These thoughts can be symptoms of anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Many counselors utilize mindfulness techniques or cognitive behavioral techniques (CBT) to help people learn to manage intrusive thoughts.
intrusive thoughts often have an emotional reaction attached to the thought followed by a coping behavior, then a negative belief ( I am either good or bad because I had these thoughts) is assigned. Now, remember the thought is intrusive it is not welcomed. The goal is to pay attention to the meaning that is applied to the intrusive thought. The intense emotional reaction is causing negative meaning to develop about a thought that is not welcomed. There is a chain reaction: intrusive thought-emotional reaction- coping behavior=belief/meaning. This chain can be broken.
To overcome intrusive thoughts here is one way that can be practiced anywhere anytime. I use this with individuals I work with who report appreciation for their success in managing emotions and thoughts.
*accept the thoughts and don’t apply negative meaning to them
- breath slowly; breath in through your nose for 4 seconds hold for 7 seconds then breathe out through your mouth for 8 seconds. While breathing and counting (slowly)this will help you to regulate your emotional reaction and slow your thoughts down. You will now be better able to decide how important the thought is without the intense emotional reaction. You may need to breathe through this cycle 4-7-8 three or more times. That is okay,
- While breathing pay attention to how your body is feeling and where you feel any tension if you feel tension. Focus on the tension and relax that tension.
- get up and do something different focus your mind on something more positive and productive.
- Accept that the intrusive thoughts will come back, but the intensity of the emotional reaction and the number of times the thought returns will decrease.
- Progress not perfection
Everybody will experience thoughts on a spectrum, some thoughts are more manageable than others. If the thoughts are having an undesirable impact on daily living, it would be a good idea to make an appointment with a counselor.
Psychotherapy is a very beneficial process to helping people learn to express, process and understand thoughts and emotions. The meaning we attach to our thought process can either help us or hurt us. With the guidance of a psychotherapist, individuals can gain an increased understanding of the potential just waiting to be realized.
Kimberly J Plourde LCSW