CBT Exercises for Intrusive Thoughts: Types and Benefits

CBT Exercises for Intrusive Thoughts

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps people change their thinking and behavior. CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all connected. So, if we change our thinking, our feelings and behaviors will also change. If you’re struggling with intrusive thoughts, there are a number of CBT exercises that can help. Thoroughly working through these exercises can help to reduce the frequency and intensity of your intrusive thoughts.

What are Intrusive Thoughts?

What are Intrusive Thoughts?

Intrusive thoughts are unwanted, uncontrollable thoughts that can cause a great deal of anxiety. They are often disturbing or disturbing images that pop into your head without warning. Intrusive thoughts can be about anything, but they are often about things that we worry about the most, such as our health, safety, or loved ones.

CBT exercises can help you to control intrusive thoughts by learning to recognize and manage your thoughts and emotions.

If you are struggling with intrusive thoughts, CBT exercises may be able to help you. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional about whether CBT is right for you.

How Can CBT Help With Intrusive Thoughts?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for a variety of mental health conditions, including intrusive thoughts. CBT can help you to identify and change the negative thought patterns that contribute to your intrusive thoughts, as well as provide you with tools and techniques to cope with intrusive thoughts when they occur.

There are several CBT exercises that can help you to manage intrusive thoughts. CBT is typically done in a therapist’s office, but it can also be done on your own. Working through CBT exercises on your own can help to reduce the frequency and intensity of intrusive thoughts and increase your overall well-being.

If you are struggling with intrusive thoughts, CBT may be able to help. A qualified CBT therapist can work with you to identify the thoughts and beliefs that contribute to your intrusive thoughts and help you to challenge and change them. CBT can also provide you with coping strategies for dealing with intrusive thoughts when they occur. If you are interested in exploring CBT for the treatment of your intrusive thoughts, please speak to a mental health professional about whether this approach may be right for you.

Different CBT Exercises for Intrusive Thoughts

CBT exercises for intrusive thoughts can be a great way to help you cope with unwanted thoughts. While it is normal to have intrusive thoughts from time to time, if they are excessive and bothersome, it may be helpful to try some CBT exercises.

There are several different CBT exercises that can be used to help with intrusive thoughts.

Practice Mindfulness

Another CBT exercise for intrusive thoughts is to practice mindfulness. When you have an intrusive thought, observe it without judgment or reaction. See it as a passing thought or feeling that is not necessarily indicative of reality. Don’t attach any importance or weight to the thought; let it pass through your mind like a cloud in the sky.

Thought Challenging

This exercise involves challenging the thinking behind your intrusive thoughts and replacing them with more rational, helpful thoughts. To do this, you need to identify the thought behind your intrusions, question it, and replace it with a new thought. Thought challenging can be done on your own by writing down your thoughts and then challenging them with evidence or using logical arguments.

Cognitive Restructuring

This exercise involves replacing negative or intrusive thought patterns with more helpful, realistic ones. It can be done both internally and externally. Internally, it involves redirecting your attention away from the intrusive thought and replacing it with a new thought or activity. Externally, cognitive restructuring involves talking to someone else about your situation in order to get perspective on the intrusion.

Exposure Therapy

This type of CBT exercise involves gradually exposing yourself to situations that trigger your intrusive thoughts until they become less intense and easier to handle. This is usually done in a controlled setting where you choose how much exposure you can handle. Also, it is important to remember that the goal of this exercise is not to eliminate the intrusive thoughts, but rather to reduce their intensity and frequency.


Meditation can be a great way to manage intrusive thoughts as it helps you focus on the present moment and become more aware of your thoughts. When practicing meditation, try focusing on your breath and letting go of any negative or intrusive thoughts that pop up. This will help you gain better control over your thoughts and reduce their frequency.

Going For a Walk

Going For a Walk

When intrusive thoughts arise, it can be helpful to get out of your head and move your body. Going for a walk is an excellent way to clear your mind and distract yourself from intrusive thoughts. Taking a break from the situation can help you gain perspective on it and come back with fresh eyes.

Keeping A Thought Record

This exercise involves writing down your intrusive thoughts and analyzing them. It is important to note any possible triggers that lead to the intrusion and how you felt afterward. This can help identify patterns in your thinking and provide insight into what may be causing your intrusive thoughts. Additionally, it can help identify which techniques work best for managing intrusions.

Creating Distraction Strategies

Having distraction strategies at hand can be a great way to manage intrusive thoughts when they arise. Examples include listening to music, going for a walk, or engaging in another activity that takes your mind off the intrusive thought. This can help break the cycle of rumination and reduce stress levels associated with intrusive thoughts. Diaries are also a great way to identify and record intrusive thoughts, as well as any strategies that have helped you manage them.

Create a Worry Period

One CBT exercise for intrusive thoughts is to create a worry period. During this period of time, you allow yourself to worry about whatever is on your mind. Set aside 20-30 minutes each day to worry. Write down your worries and try to come up with solutions for them. At the end of the worry period, put your worries away and don’t think about them until the next worry period. This can help you gain control over your anxiety and intrusive thoughts.

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation can help to reduce the intensity of intrusive thoughts. Relaxation helps to keep the mind and body relaxed, reducing the response to any stress or triggers that might cause an intrusive thought. Some of these techniques can also help you gain insight into why the intrusive thought occurs and what strategies to take in order to manage or overcome it.


Writing down your thoughts, feelings, and experiences can be a helpful tool for managing intrusive thoughts. Keeping a journal allows you to record your thoughts and feelings without judgment, which can be beneficial in understanding why you are having certain intrusions and how to best address them. It also gives you an opportunity to work through any difficult emotions that may arise from the experience of intrusive thoughts.


In addition to the above CBT exercises, it is important to practice self-compassion when dealing with intrusive thoughts. It is normal to have intrusive thoughts from time to time, and being kind and understanding towards yourself will help reduce any guilt or shame that you may feel in response. Self-compassion can also be a powerful tool for managing stress levels associated with intrusive thoughts.

Guided Imagery

Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is a powerful tool for managing intrusive thoughts by helping you focus on calming images or scenarios in order to create an inner sense of peace and relaxation. This exercise helps distract from the intrusive thought, allowing you to gain some mental distance from it and reduce its power over you. It can also help to build resilience against future intrusive thoughts by instilling a sense of strength and control.


In conclusion, CBT exercises for intrusive thoughts can be an invaluable tool to help you cope with the debilitating effects of such thoughts. While it is important to remember that no single exercise will work for everyone, knowing which techniques to try and incorporate into your daily routine can provide immense relief in managing intrusive thoughts. If you find yourself needing more support in dealing with these types of thoughts, seeking professional help from a mental health provider can also be beneficial.

For more information and guidance, please contact MantraCare. OCD is a mental health disorder characterized by obsessions and compulsions. If you have any queries regarding Online OCD Counseling experienced therapists at MantraCare can help: Book a trial OCD therapy session

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