Please be careful when reading this piece as some of the content may be triggering.
Intrusive thoughts are quite common in people who have a mental illness. The reason I chose to write about them now is because my own intrusive thoughts are impacting on my life a great deal. Therefore I thought it would be good to share about them and make others aware just how much of an impact they can have.
Intrusive thoughts can turn up in a multitude of guises, from ruminating thoughts to obsessions. It can be defined as an unwelcome, involuntary thought, image or idea that is upsetting or distressing. They are often difficult to manage or get rid of. Intrusive thoughts are heavily linked to OCD but you can also get them with other mental illnesses including anxiety and depression.
What form do my intrusive thoughts take?
My intrusive thoughts tend to centre around people dying. In particular people close to me. I become convinced that some how my actions are going to cause people to become unwell and die. A fair amount of the time these thoughts are fleeting and I can work to stop them becoming an overbearing part of my life. At other times, like currently, I cannot control the flow of almost constant thoughts through my brain. I become convinced people will die and it will be my fault.
What impact do my intrusive thoughts have?
My intrusive thoughts tend to leave me in a state of high anxiety at nearly all times. I am hyper vigilant a lot of the time. When the intrusive thoughts are at their most demanding, I feel constantly on edge. The gear pulses through my body and I am terrified. I can’t control the thoughts at this level so they are constantly rolling over and over in my mind. It is exhausting as there seems to be no off switch.
These thoughts can lead to self harm and suicidal thoughts, as my brain tells me this is the only way to stop the bad things from happening. It can also lead to other rituals, for example, I have to keep my fingers crossed or someone will die. I can do this to the point my fingers are painful because they’ve been in that position so long.
How can you deal with intrusive thoughts?
Coping with intrusive thoughts is tough. There is no quick solution. They are always going to be there to some extent, I have found. When my thoughts are at their worst I get and use distractions to keep them at bay. This can include colouring, origami or listening to a podcast. I also try writing. Sometimes this doesn’t work and my anxiety keeps rising, at which point I have to use PRN medication (in my case Lorazepam) to help me cope. If intrusive thoughts are really effecting you, it is worth discussing with a mental health professional or doctor as there is treatment available. You do not need to suffer.
Have you experienced intrusive thoughts? If so what has helped you? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.