This post is the second of a two-part series on intrusive thoughts. You can find the first post, where we broke down intrusive thoughts and talked about what they look like, here.
Having intrusive thoughts tends to feel like an everyday struggle. By their very nature, these types of thoughts can work their way into our subconscious and fool us into thinking we put those thoughts there ourselves. But even though this might be something we deal with on a daily basis, there are ways to manage intrusive thoughts with how we acknowledge and deal with them internally. Here are some of the most effective ways to deal with intrusive thoughts.
Ways to Deal With Intrusive Thoughts
It might sound boring or extremely simple, but a big part of managing intrusive thoughts is confrontation. You’re not challenging the truth of the thought itself, but challenging its very existence. If that sounds a little hokey, here are some examples of what I mean (with the help of my friends from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America):
- Label these thoughts as “intrusive thoughts.” Don’t give power to these thoughts as being legitimate. Call them for what they are.
- Remind yourself that these thoughts are automatic and not up to you. This is one I practice regularly, because it takes conditioning to learn that these thoughts are automatic, and they become so instinctual you think you put them there.
- Accept and allow the thoughts into your mind. This is one example I have real trouble with, but I know it’s helped people so I want to mention it. The idea is that by accepting the thought into your mind, you’re not giving it more power by suppressing it.
- Float, and practice allowing time to pass. One of the ways that intrusive thoughts can trip us up is by making us think the world is moving super fast. Most of the time, it’s not. Let time pass, giving space for these thoughts to float on through.
- Expect the thoughts to come back again. A key mistake in dealing with intrusive thoughts is thinking that once you have that specific thought, you’ve gotten it out of your system and it will never come back. In fact, the opposite is usually true – they will come back, and come back swinging. But knowing that they will return can help you better manage and deal with these thoughts when they come.
Seeking Help for Intrusive Thoughts
If your intrusive thoughts ever become too much to handle or seem to drive you toward reality in any way, I would urge you (or tell you to urge others) to seek help for that specifically. Intrusive thoughts can be a manifestation of a mental health disorder and while someone might know they’re dealing with intrusive thoughts, they might not be able to define other mental health issues they’re dealing with. There are several forms of therapy that can help you deal with intrusive thoughts, including:
- Group talk therapy
- One-on-one counseling
- Specialized behavioral therapy (e.g. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, etc.)
- Experiential therapy
In addition, there are medications that exist that can help people who deal with an OCD-level of intrusive thoughts (SRIs) that might also offer help. While none of these strategies is a be-all, end-all solution for intrusive thoughts, these strategies can go a long way toward fighting those intrusive thoughts and giving them less power over us.
Whether or not you’ve had success in dealing with intrusive thoughts, I wish you folx all the best as we continue to learn more about our own intrusive thoughts and how to help others who are experiencing them!