Intrusive thoughts are something that I used to deal with extensively. Mine would manifest mostly as a suicidal ideation. I would constantly think about what would happen were I to drive off the road and no longer live. I wouldn’t PLAN on driving off the road, nor did I have intentions of doing so. I would think about the repercussions of it as well as what it would feel like. This would happen a lot during this previous summer when I was on my way to or from work, as my drive is 45 minutes. I didn’t plan on doing it, until I did do it. My therapist suggested to me that my suicidal ideation (at least before it went away, as I no longer have this issue) may just be a form of intrusive thoughts that a lot of people have. Intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts, images, or ideas that come across your mind and you can’t necessarily stop. They may come out of nowhere or be a constant companion that doesn’t quite make sense. Things like driving off the road or wanting to punch someone that isn’t even irritating you. Dropping a plate you’re holding, putting your hand on a hot stove, jumping off of a bridge you’re walking across, hurting yourself etc. There is a long range of intrusive thoughts that anyone and everyone can have. Thankfully, it’s super common, so you don’t have to worry if you’re crazy (for this reason anyway).
They aren’t exactly easy to stop; I had to get diagnosed as bipolar and go through intensive therapy and medication changes for mine to stop, but it is possible to do. While I do not have mine anymore, I am hypervigilant now while driving, so mine went the other way. I’m not thinking of driving off the road anymore, I’m terrified of someone making me have a car wreck, so I’m very vigilant and anxious when driving, thinking someone will pull in front of me or something and cause me to crash. Alas the pendulum swings. I looked up some common intrusive thoughts, perhaps you may have some of these too. There were quite a few that I had as well. I’ll link the article, so you can see the full list as well.
- People are looking at you and laughing at you
- You are a burden on people
- Something bad is about to happen
- Hurting yourself or others
- Violent thoughts
- You don’t love your significant other
- Family would be better off without you
- Committing murder
- Contracting a disease
- You’re not good enough or thin enough
- You’re ugly and fat
- Jumping off a bridge or onto a subway rail
- That you have done something terribly wrong
- Things happening to those you love
- Nobody loves you
There are endless variations of these basic thoughts. They are intrusive and so by nature they like to stick around and go around the hamster wheel in your mind. The only way I’ve found to help me get over/through them is to ground myself. I will also rub on my worry stones I have strategically placed in my car, beside my bed and in my purse. In order to ground yourself, they taught us to pick one each of smell, sight, taste, sound and touch and apply it to yourself in that moment. If you’re in the car in the rain, pick the smell of the rain, the view of the road, the sound of the radio, the feel of cold air running through your hair, the taste of the soda you have next to you. Place yourself back into that exact moment. Ground yourself to where you currently are as opposed to the “what if” thoughts that are going through your mind. This technique I use quite frequently to get through panic as well as get rid of any nasty thoughts. We practiced this in some of my first group therapy classes using our favorite senses as well. That way, when we are in the throes of a panic attack, we can mentally picture our favorite senses and try and ground ourselves when we can’t focus on anything but the panic.
What intrusive thoughts do you have? How do you get through them and get your mind back on track?