If you regularly have intrusive thoughts – which often cause significant stress or anxiety, or are impulses or mental images that impair your ability to function – you may be wondering if they’re normal.
Not sure what an intrusive or invasive thought is, or if it’s normal to have them? Let’s discuss the basics in this post from the office of Dr. Quintal & Associates.
- What Is An Intrusive Thought? What You Need To Know
- Are Intrusive Thoughts Normal?
- When Should I Worry About Intrusive Thoughts?
- Intrusive Thoughts And Mental Health Issues
What Is An Intrusive Or Invasive Thought? What You Need To Know
Invasive thoughts are upsetting, stressful, or unhealthy thoughts that may seem to appear in your head for no reason – and can cause you a lot of anxiety, anguish, and emotional turmoil.
For example, you may frequently have an intrusive or invasive thought about crashing your car while driving. Or, when you’re on the top of a cliff, high building, or somewhere else where you could be in danger of falling, you may suddenly think about what would happen if you threw yourself off and fell.
These kinds of thoughts can be very disturbing.
Many people who have intrusive thoughts experience violent, unpleasant, or sexual thoughts that can be upsetting – and seem to come out of nowhere.
Even if you don’t have a history of mental health issues, you may find yourself struck by these thoughts occasionally – and upset or disturbed by what you’re thinking about. Could you possibly have such thoughts if you were “normal?”
Are Invasive Thoughts Normal? Yes!
The short answer is “yes.” Intrusive thoughts are just that – thoughts. Even if you are of sound mind and free of any serious mental health issues, it’s possible to be struck by intrusive thoughts out of nowhere – and this is not something you should feel too concerned about.
If you only have periodic intrusive thoughts and have no urge to act on them, this is completely normal.
As long as you’re not obsessing about the thought – and feeling bad and guilty for thinking it – chances are that you’re totally fine.
When Should I Worry About Intrusive Thoughts?
However, the real problem begins when you get “stuck” on an intrusive thought. For example, let’s say you’re holding a kitchen knife, and all of a sudden, you briefly think about the idea of stabbing a loved one.
This happens – and most people will be able to get rid of that thought, put it out of their mind, and move on. But if you get stuck on this thought, you may start to feel guilty and anxious.
How could you possibly think of doing such a thing?
Shouldn’t you feel bad for even considering the idea?
How can you be “normal” when having such sick, disgusting thoughts?
When you begin to obsess about these intrusive thoughts and you have feelings of guilt, anxiety, and self-hatred for feeling them, this is when they become problematic. In fact, this is often a sign of a serious mental health disorder such as OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder).
You may be unable to release an intrusive thought, and may think about it again and again – to such an extent that it can negatively affect your day-to-day life.
If you do struggle with intrusive thoughts regularly, you may wish to consult with a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Talk therapy and learning coping mechanisms for intrusive thoughts are usually the best option for treatment, though medication may be recommended in some cases.
Invasive Thoughts And Mental Health Issues
In some cases, intrusive thoughts may indicate a deeper mental health issue – such as OCD, mentioned above.
A few other mental health issues that may be accompanied by intrusive thoughts include:
- PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) – PTSD is often accompanied by intrusive thoughts – which are usually specifically related to the past traumatic experiences that have caused PTSD.
Depression – Depression can also cause you to ruminate and think about intrusive thoughts, and may amplify the effects of intrusive thoughts.
- Bipolar disorder – It’s estimated that about 1/5 of people with bipolar disorder suffer from obsessive, intrusive thoughts, which can negatively affect sleep, and lead to dysfunctional or harmful behaviors.
- ADHD – People with ADHD are often much less able to cope with intrusive thoughts, and may obsess about them – which makes it even harder to pay attention and focus during normal, day-to-day situations.
If you are plagued by recurring intrusive thoughts and you continually worry about them, obsess over them, and wonder what they mean, it’s possible that your intrusive thoughts are related to one of the above conditions, and it’s a good idea to seek help from a mental health professional right away.
Most Thoughts Are Normal – But Obsessing About Them Isn’t
If you suffer from periodic intrusive thoughts that upset or disturb you, but you’re able to quickly stop thinking about them and move on, this is completely normal – and nothing to worry about.
But if you feel “stuck” on a particular thought and wracked by feelings of anxiety, guilt, disgust, and other negative feelings because of it, and you can’t stop thinking about it, this is not normal. You should see a mental health professional to learn more – and to get the help you need to stop obsessing over intrusive thoughts.
At the office of Dr. Quintal & Associates, we’re here to help. Our licensed therapists can help you learn more about the source of your intrusive thoughts, and provide you with a path forward that will help you live a healthier life. Request a free consultation now.