How Can You Deal With Intrusive Thoughts: 7 Ways To Stop Them!

Dealing With Intrusive Thoughts

Are you frequently dealing with intrusive thoughts that just won’t leave you alone? Maybe they pop up out of nowhere when you’re trying to work, or they keep you awake at night with endless ‘what ifs.’ It can feel like your own mind is working against you.

If this sounds like your daily struggle, you’re not alone. In our blog, we’re tackling this head-on, and we’ll guide you through 7 practical strategies to help you manage and stop these intrusive thoughts. From understanding what triggers them to learning techniques to regain control of your mind, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive into these tips and start your journey towards a calmer, more peaceful mind.”

Understanding Intrusive Thoughts

What Are Intrusive ThoughtsIntrusive thoughts are unwelcome, often distressing thoughts or images that suddenly pop into your mind, seemingly out of nowhere. They can be startling, upsetting, or even disturbing, and they’re more common than you might think. Here’s a closer look at what they are and why they occur:

Nature of Intrusive Thoughts:

  • These thoughts can range from mildly annoying to extremely distressing. They might involve scenarios of harm, sexual content, or other taboo topics.
  • Intrusive thoughts are involuntary; you don’t choose to have them, and they can occur even when you’re engaged in a completely unrelated activity.

Why They Occur:

  • They are a part of the normal spectrum of human experience and can be a product of our subconscious minds trying to process fears, anxieties, or stress.
  • Sometimes, they arise from internal conflicts or suppressed thoughts, serving as a mental “glitch” rather than a meaningful message.

It’s important to understand that having intrusive thoughts doesn’t make you a bad person. They are not reflective of your character or desires.

Many people experience them – it’s not just you. However, not everyone talks about them openly, which can lead to misconceptions about their frequency and nature. Just because you have a disturbing thought doesn’t mean you have the intention to act on it.  They don’t define you or your intentions and, with the right strategies, can be effectively managed.


Recognizing Your Triggers

Identifying what triggers your intrusive thoughts is a crucial step in managing them. By understanding your personal triggers, you can become more aware of the patterns and prepare yourself to deal with these thoughts more effectively. Here’s how to recognize your triggers:

  • Start by paying close attention to when the intrusive thoughts occur. Is it during a particular time of day, in specific situations, or when you’re feeling a certain way?
  • Keeping a journal can be helpful. Note down the time, what you were doing, and how you were feeling when the thought popped up.

Common Triggers

Recognizing Your Triggers

    • Stress and Anxiety: High-stress situations or general anxiety can often trigger intrusive thoughts.
    • Fatigue: Being overly tired can make you more susceptible to these thoughts.
    • Certain Activities: Specific activities that you associate with past negative experiences can also be triggers.
  • Emotional Triggers:
    • Emotions like fear, guilt, or shame can often be at the root of these thoughts.
    • Recognizing these emotions and understanding their impact can help you anticipate and manage intrusive thoughts.
  • Patterns and Trends:
    • Over time, you may start to see patterns. Certain situations or emotional states may consistently precede the occurrence of intrusive thoughts.
    • Recognizing these patterns can help you prepare and employ coping strategies more effectively.

By becoming aware of your triggers, you can gain a better understanding of your intrusive thoughts. This awareness is a powerful tool in managing them and reducing their impact on your life. Remember, the goal isn’t to eliminate these thoughts entirely but to learn how to deal with them more effectively.

7 Tips To Stop These Intrusive Thoughts

7 Tips To Stop These Intrusive Thoughts

Dealing with and managing intrusive thoughts involves practical strategies that help you regain control over your mind. Here are some effective ways to manage or stop these thoughts:

Mindfulness and Meditation

  • Practice mindfulness by focusing on the present moment. This can help you acknowledge intrusive thoughts without getting caught up in them.
  • Meditation techniques, such as deep breathing or guided imagery, can help calm your mind and reduce the power of these thoughts.

Challenge and Reframe Thoughts

  • When an intrusive thought occurs, challenge its validity. Ask yourself: Is this thought based on fact or just my imagination?
  • Reframe the thought to something more realistic or positive. For instance, replace “What if something bad happens?” with “I’ve handled challenges before, and I can do it again.”

Distraction Techniques

  • Engage in activities that require your full attention. This could be a hobby, exercise, or even a simple task like organizing a space in your home.
  • Distractions can shift your focus away from intrusive thoughts and give your mind a break.

Scheduled Worry Time

  • Set aside a specific time each day to acknowledge and process your intrusive thoughts. This prevents them from taking over your entire day.
  • During this time, write down your thoughts and fears, then work on letting them go.

Physical Activity

  • Regular exercise can significantly help in reducing stress and anxiety, which can trigger intrusive thoughts.
  • Activities like walking, jogging, yoga, or even dancing can provide mental relief.

Seek Professional Help

  • If intrusive thoughts are overwhelming and affecting your daily life, consider seeking help from a mental health professional.
  • Therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) & Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) can be particularly effective in managing intrusive thoughts.

Stay Connected with Others

  • Talking to friends or family about your thoughts can provide a new perspective and reduce their intensity.
  • Social connections can also provide emotional support and distraction from negative thoughts.

Remember, while it may not be possible to completely stop all intrusive thoughts, using these strategies can significantly reduce their frequency and impact on your life.

Is There Medication for Intrusive Thoughts?

Is There Medication for Intrusive ThoughtsWhen dealing with intrusive thoughts, especially if they’re persistent and impacting your daily life, medication can be an effective part of the treatment plan. Common Medications include:

    • SSRIs
      Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are often prescribed for managing intrusive thoughts. These include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil, Brisdelle, Pexeva), fluvoxamine (Luvox), citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), and vilazodone (Viibryd).
    • How They Work
      SSRIs work by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter that affects mood, emotion, and sleep. This can help in calming the mind and reducing the frequency of intrusive thoughts.

These medications have been found effective in reducing the symptoms associated with intrusive thoughts, particularly in conditions like OCD and anxiety disorders.

    • Common side effects of SSRIs can include nausea, headache, drowsiness, dry mouth, increased sweating, weight changes, sexual side effects, and insomnia.

It’s important to note that these medications often take time to show their full effect, usually several weeks to months.

In conclusion, while medication can be an effective way to manage intrusive thoughts, it should be considered as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, including therapy and lifestyle changes.

How Long Do Intrusive Thoughts Last?

Unwanted intrusive thoughts are a bit like uninvited guests – they can pop up unexpectedly and their stay can vary. The duration of these thoughts can depend on how you respond to them:

    • Intrusive thoughts can come and go. They may appear suddenly and linger for a short period, or they might recur over a longer span.
    • The frequency and duration of these thoughts can vary greatly from person to person.

Research suggests that trying to push away or overly focus on intrusive thoughts can actually prolong their presence. The more you fixate on an unwanted intrusive thought, the more ingrained it becomes in your mind.

One effective strategy is to acknowledge the thought without giving it too much power or attention.  This approach can help in reducing the intensity and duration of the thoughts over time. Therefore, adhering to a treatment plan, whether it includes therapy, medication, or a combination of both, can significantly help in managing these thoughts. While they might not disappear overnight, sticking to your treatment plan can significantly reduce their impact on your life.

When To Consider A Professional Doctor For Help?

When To Consider A Professional Doctor For Help?If your intrusive thoughts are severe and persistent, or if you find yourself engaging in behaviors to cope with them that are harmful or interfere with your everyday life, it is time to seek help from a professional. A mental health professional can help you identify any underlying causes of your intrusive thoughts and provide strategies for managing them.

Additionally, therapy and medication may also be beneficial. Talking through your concerns with a qualified doctor can help you gain better insight and control over intrusive thoughts, as well as work on any underlying issues that may be causing them.


Intrusive thoughts are a common experience and can be difficult to manage. However, with the right strategies and support, you can learn to recognize them for what they are and take steps to reduce their intensity or frequency. By engaging in activities that focus on being present, managing your stress levels, and seeking help from a mental health professional if needed, you can gain better control over intrusive thoughts and create a sense of peace in your life.

Take care, and don’t forget that you are not alone! 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

FAQs About Intrusive Thoughts

  • What happens if you ignore intrusive thoughts?
    Ignoring intrusive thoughts can sometimes make them more persistent. It’s often more effective to acknowledge them without giving them too much power. Practicing mindfulness and accepting these thoughts as mere thoughts, not realities, can help reduce their impact.
  • What if my intrusive thoughts are real?
    Intrusive thoughts, while they can feel very real, are typically not reflections of your true desires or intentions. They are often exaggerated fears or anxieties. If you’re finding it hard to differentiate, speaking with a mental health professional can provide clarity.
  • Do intrusive thoughts ever go away?
    While intrusive thoughts may not disappear completely, their frequency and impact can be significantly reduced with proper treatment and coping strategies. Over time, with therapy and possibly medication, you can learn to manage these thoughts effectively.
  • What makes intrusive thoughts worse?
    Stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, and focusing too much on the thoughts can make them worse. Avoiding or trying to suppress these thoughts can also inadvertently increase their presence. Engaging in healthy coping mechanisms and seeking professional help can alleviate their intensity.

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