Intrusive Thoughts

What are intrusive thoughts?

Intrusive thoughts are unwelcome, recurrent mental images and ideas that can cause distress. They tend to focus on inappropriate or troubling topics, such as death, violence, worries about performance in social situations, or intrusive memories from traumatic events. People often struggle to control these thoughts, which can be anxiety-inducing and highly disruptive to their daily lives.

What do intrusive thoughts consist of?

Common intrusive thoughts include fears of germs or contamination, fear of making mistakes, fear of hurting others or causing disasters unintentionally, fear of embarrassment or shame, fear of accidentally saying something offensive out loud, fear of one’s own mortality or impending doom, or an inability to stop dwelling on certain topics despite knowing that it is irrational to do so.

In some cases these thoughts can become intrusive enough that they interfere with a person’s ability to focus on other tasks at hand and live a productive life. Fortunately, there are techniques such as Systemic Therapy and the Excentration Technique that can help people manage the intensity and frequency of their intrusive thoughts.