Intrusive thoughts were one of the worst symptoms I experienced when I had Postnatal Anxiety & OCD. They were so violent and abhorrent in nature they caused me huge distress and left me questioning who I am and whether I should be locked away. Today I want to share five quick tips for anyone currently feeling overwhelmed by Intrusive Thoughts and I hope they bring you some comfort.
Thoughts are not actions
First and foremost, this is what you need to keep front and centre of your mind. No matter how strange, distressing, violent or abhorrent your intrusive thoughts are they are still just thoughts. Thinking something and doing something are two extremely different things, and it’s helpful to keep this distinction in mind.
The fact that you recognise them as wrong shows you’re unlikely to act on them
As an extension of the point above, the fact that you find these thoughts so distressing is strong evidence that you’re never going to act on them. Many of my thoughts centered around hurting my son or myself and I was terrified of them. My therapist pointed out that the disgust I felt was proof that I wouldn’t go through with any of it.
Everyone has intrusive thoughts
Think back, have you never had weird or unpleasant thoughts in the past? Many of us occasionally have violent, unpleasant or simply off-the-wall thoughts cross our minds every once in a while. The difference is when you’re well you just shake them off and when you’re vulnerable due to your mental health you fixate on them and become distressed. The thought may be the same, it’s the reaction that’s different. So try to change your reaction. Leading on to…
Engaging with intrusive thoughts makes them worse
Just like all aspects of anxiety, questioning, analysing and trying to rid yourself of intrusive thoughts only encourages your brain to continue to bring them up. By giving the thoughts attention and an emotional response you’re telling your brain there’s something worth worrying about. Instead…
Getting space between your thoughts and your reality is really important. How you do this is very individual but visualisation worked best for me. When the thoughts came into my head, instead of engaging with them and feeling frightened, I began to imagine them as movies being projected onto clouds and then I’d watch each one drift away and disperse.
If you’d like to read more details about my experience of Perinatal OCD and Intrusive Thoughts, and how I overcame them, please read Intrusive Thoughts – Horror Movies In My Mind.