Thursday’s Topic| Intrusive Thoughts

Introducing Thursday’s Topic.

Every Thursday, we will be introducing a new topic to discuss. These topics will focus on mental illness and parenting. We hope that we can create an atmosphere where parenting and mental illness coexist without judgment and shame. For our very first Thursday’s Topic, we will be discussing intrusive thoughts. 

Thursday’s Topic: intrusive thoughts

What’s an intrusive thought?

It’s an involuntary thought, image, or idea that is unpleasant and unwanted. These thoughts often become obsessive, hard to get rid of, and distressing. While these thoughts may be disturbing, it’s essential to understand that it is normal. 

You did not invite these thoughts. They happen without invitation or warning. One out of four people will suffer from an intrusive thought or image. A person that does not have a mental illness can have intrusive thoughts. However, a person with a mental illness; such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and OCD, these thoughts can become harder to dismiss. 

Intrusive Thoughts Are Involuntary 

As a mother, that suffered from postpartum depression, and my fears trigged immobilizing intrusive thoughts. They became terrifying and realistic that it was the reason I sought treatment. After envisioning harming my child, I spiraled into a nervous breakdown. I had no desires to hurt any of them. Yet, when I closed my eyes, all I saw was this scene on repeat. At that moment, I could not remove the thought from my mind. It was impossible to move, sleep, talk, or think. My husband stayed up all night, soothing my nerves, and brought me to the doctor the next day. During my assessment, I was referred to a Center for Women’s Mood Disorders to start treatment.

 It was there that I learned that I suffered from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Agoraphobia. But, most importantly, that my thoughts were not actions. Although they felt like reality during the obsessive state or it may be acted out, that is not the case. The reason why intrusive thoughts are traumatizing is the concept of the idea is not a typical action of the person that is having it. The obsessive behavior of the intrusive thought overplaying manifests into anxious thinking. To the point that we are not able to rationalize the behavior. The intrusive thought itself becomes irrational. 

How To Deal With Intrusive Thoughts

It’s important to remember that these thoughts are not voluntary. When confronted with one, here are some tools that can be used to help control the anxious thinking.

  1. Remind yourself that intrusive thoughts are not harmful. 
  2. Recognize these as only thoughts and not actions that you desire to act out.
  3. Change your scenery: removing yourself from the area or situation that the thought appeared. 
  4. Complete a task: by focusing on something else, it allows our mind to shift focus on the intrusive thought. 

Treatment is available

Although intrusive thoughts are rational, it is valuable to seek treatment if the thoughts becoming overwhelming, and you are unable to control them. Treatment options are available. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your doctor.


43 Comments Add yours

  1. Love, Auntie says:

    Excellent suggestions. I also found this book incredibly helpful: Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts: A CBT-Based Guide to Getting Over Frightening, Obsessive, or Disturbing Thoughts – By Winston and Seif.

    1. Mother Fluff says:

      Thank you for the recommendation! I will have to look into that book.

  2. When I was first treated for schizophrenia, my doctor prescribed Stela-zine to handle the intrusive thoughts. He called them “extraneous” thoughts. The drug made the thoughts go away. That was 45 years ago. I still get them, when under stress, but I recognize them for what they are. They repeat themselves, too. Sentences, or parts of sentences, repeat themselves. I suffer from anxiety but normally my mind is clear. That did not used to be the case. .

    1. Mother Fluff says:

      Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve also had the thoughts become repetitive in sentences.

  3. Despite Pain says:

    That must have been such a difficult time for you. I’m glad your husband was able to be there to support you and take you somewhere you could get help.

  4. Norma says:

    Intrusive thoughts are very annoying! Great strategy to remind ourselves that thoughts are not harmful.

    1. Mother Fluff says:

      Yes, they are!

    2. Thank you for shining a light on ppd and going into the details of how this works. We need more people to open up and reach out to those living with ppd. This was helpful and wonderfully written.

  5. mcushing7 says:

    Thank you for your posts on ways to deal with different types of mental health issues as it is important to bring awareness to others. More people than we know have issues like this and am personally having issues with anxiety and sometimes depression. Thank you 🙂

    1. Mother Fluff says:

      Remember, that you are not alone! I live with anxiety and it can be really overwhelming at times.

  6. Alexandra says:

    I used to have these types of thoughts more than I do now. I absolutely hated them and worked really hard to stop them after they came by immediately focusing on something else and getting active if I had to. Now they do pop in randomly but I am able to stop them and not let them stay. It happens usually when I am very stressed or if I am triggered by something.

    1. Mother Fluff says:

      Stress and lack of sleep is a major trigger for instructive thoughts. Thank you for sharing your experience and reading.

  7. I guess the big one is just to continue to remember and remind yourself that intrusive thoughts are not harmful in and of themself.

    1. Mother Fluff says:

      Absolutely. A thought is only a thought.

  8. I’m so glad you shared this post! Because quite honestly, I always thought things like this were excuses. I remember back in 2001 reading about Andrea Yates and thinking it was all just an excuse to get rid of her kids. Obviously that isn’t actually the case. Postpartum depression and intrusive thoughts are very real, and I am glad you are bringing more awareness to it. I don’t think it is talked about nearly enough, until there is another Andrea Yates in the news, and then it is all judgment and nothing else. That doesn’t help anyone suffering, it just pushes them back into hiding.

    1. Mother Fluff says:

      I agree. Intrusive thoughts mixed with psychosis is a disaster waiting to happen. Britney Spears is another example too.

  9. Kelly Martin says:

    Stopping intrusive thoughts before they take hold is so important. I try to redirect my thoughts to something positive as soon as I can.

    1. Mother Fluff says:

      I think redirection is one of the most useful ways to help removed intrusive thoughts.

  10. Now this is something I’ve experienced quite a lot. It’s not always negative and harmful but it always shocks me how easy these intrusive thoughts pass by. Those are some great tips, will definitely try them out.

    1. Mother Fluff says:

      I hope they will help!

  11. Sonia Seivwright says:

    Such a sensitive topic. Great posts though. Thanks for sharing

  12. Betsy Carter says:

    Such great tips for dealing with intrusive thoughts. Thank you for sharing your experience and providing helpful information.

    1. Mother Fluff says:

      Thank you for reading!

  13. Intrusive thoughts are part of life and sometimes knowing how to deal with these type of thoughts goes a long way in helping to managing the situation.
    Wishing you light and love

    1. Mother Fluff says:

      I agree. Thank you for reading.

  14. I was just talking with my husband about this yesterday. I have anxiety/PPA and the things that come to my mind can be truly scary. I’ve learned to “sit with them” and let them go for the most part, but it’s still not fun to have them.

  15. Noelle says:

    Thank you for these tools. They will help so many mamas!

  16. Thank you for sharing you personal story. Mental health is such an important topic, and sharing your experiences along with resources can be helpful for so many.

    1. Mother Fluff says:

      I agree! Thank you for reading!

  17. emily says:

    I just started CBT and this is all so helpful!

    1. Mother Fluff says:

      I’ve been researching that and debating if I should try it.

  18. Momma McGovern says:

    I love the reminder that these are just thoughts, not something we actually want or have to act on!

    1. Mother Fluff says:

      I hope that it helps! Thank you for reading.

  19. Tadpoles And Mud Puddles says:

    I love the idea of focusing on a task. It can really help get your mind off of things.

    1. Mother Fluff says:

      Yes, it can. It might take longer than wanted, but don’t give up!

  20. May De Jesus-Palacpac says:

    Yes, intrusive thoughts can happen to everyone and I agree that it would be harder for those with mental disabilities to dismiss them.

    Thanks for the tips, will take note of them.

    1. Mother Fluff says:

      Thank you for reading!

  21. momlearningonthejob says:

    Great article and recommendations. Thanks for the tips

    1. Mother Fluff says:

      Thank you for reading.

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