Do you ever have thoughts that you’d rather not have? Pesky thoughts don’t hold much meaning for most and go away quickly. If you do not suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), intrusive thoughts may seem like nothing more than fleeting moments of annoyance.
However, if you live with OCD, intrusive thoughts can present challenging moments that overwhelm your day and consume much of your time. These types of thoughts are invasive because they feel like they intrude into your mind against your will. They appear suddenly without any warning and cause a great deal of distress due to their content.
Understanding what causes them is the first step toward decreasing their impact on your quality of life. Let’s explore what intrusive thoughts are, how they correlate with OCD, and a few tips for coping.
What Are Intrusive Thoughts?
Experts define intrusive thoughts as thoughts that come into your mind without an obvious prompt and are alarming or disturbing. Every person may experience thoughts such as these from time to time, but for some, the thought can stay put and cause feelings of distress.
Are Intrusive Thoughts Normal?
Because every person will experience intrusive thoughts throughout their lifetime, they are considered normal. Those with neurotypical brain function experience intrusive thoughts as a passing moment of oddity or annoyance because they can healthily monitor their thinking.
When intrusive thoughts become persistent or are unwanted or disturbing somehow, it may be a sign of an underlying mental health disorder. Intrusive thoughts are commonly seen in those living with OCD.
What Is OCD?
OCD is a mental health disorder that affects the brain and nervous system. It’s considered a neurodevelopmental disorder because it tends to onset in childhood or early adolescence.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) explains that OCD interrupts daily life and impairs an individual’s ability to function. While the specific cause of OCD is unknown, some believe genetic factors may play a role, as OCD seems to run in families.
What Are the Symptoms of OCD?
There are different types of symptoms associated with OCD, but they often include obsessive thoughts paired with compulsive behaviors.
A person living with intrusive thoughts may have difficulty concentrating on tasks at hand because their mind focuses instead on the intrusive thoughts consuming their mind. Actions such as repeating specific words or phrases, counting items in a particular area, and performing mental rituals are common types of compulsions seen in OCD.
OCD behaviors can be complex, but they generally fall under four categories:
- Cleaning & Contamination OCD: A fear or intense discomfort regarding uncleanliness, which may manifest as excessive washing.
- Order & Symmetry or Counting Compulsions OCD: Creates an intense urge to arrange things until they are “exactly right” or causes someone to count or repeat a phrase repetitively.
- Harm OCD: Involves feelings of extreme worry that you or someone you know may experience harm, which can lead to checking rituals.
- Hoarding OCD: This type of OCD is now a recognized diagnosis and entails collecting items that don’t seem to hold value.
If you believe you or someone you know shows signs of OCD, contact us today for a consultation.
OCD & Intrusive Thoughts
Intrusive thoughts are one of the main symptoms of OCD, leading to behaviors associated with the four different types of the disorder. The reason behind ritual development is that it is a way for a person to manage intrusive thinking in hopes that it will not occur again in the future. These rituals may further develop into a routine based on their created patterns, significantly interfering with daily life.
According to Dr. Debra Kissen, most people are only slightly concerned by intrusive thoughts, whereas those with OCD become consumed and distressed.
3 Tips For Coping With OCD Intrusive Thoughts
The intrusive thoughts associated with OCD can significantly impede someone’s ability to function in daily life. While our first tip for coping is to seek support, there are also things you can do to help yourself if you’re experiencing intrusive thinking.
- Tip One: Seek Support: As we said, seeking support is the first recommendation as several therapeutic interventions can greatly improve one’s challenges regarding intrusive thoughts. At New Dimensions Day Treatment, we are well-equipped to partner with you to take back the power from intrusive thinking and create a plan to help you feel more like yourself again.
- Tip Two: Acknowledge the Thought: By labeling overwhelming thoughts as intrusive, you can begin to take back control and develop a deeper understanding of what may trigger them. Remember that you do not determine these thoughts. By accepting and acknowledging them, you can minimize some of the associated fear. Meditation and mindfulness techniques can also help in trying to acknowledge intrusive thinking.
- Tip Three: Do Not Change Behaviors: Compulsions manifest when intrusive thoughts begin to change our behaviors. If you practice acknowledgment, you can allow yourself time to take a pause and evaluate how you plan to respond. OCD thoughts are not based on reality, so altering your reality to adapt to them may not benefit you in the long run.
The Bottomline of OCD & Intrusive Thoughts
Intrusive thoughts can be devastating due to the overwhelming feelings of stress and anxiety they deliver. While everyone experiences them occasionally, they frequently occur in those with OCD. If intrusive thoughts start to interfere with your ability to function throughout the day, talking about it with your healthcare provider is a great next step. Seeking treatment and support is an excellent way to reduce the triggers that ignite this type of thinking and help you learn additional ways to cope and react when and if they occur.
New Dimensions Can Help!
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.
Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit www.mhthrive.com to learn more.