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Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts are normal!

Intrusive thoughts are completely normal. Studies have shown that almost all of us experience unwanted thoughts on a daily basis. However, we can usually find ways to distract ourselves – they don’t interfere with our lives.

Common intrusive thoughts are suddenly having the image of pushing someone off a train platform or jumping off yourself, kicking a defenceless dog, yelling in church or some place where this behaviour would be particularly unacceptable, jumping out of a moving car, swerving and driving into a river or stabbing someone you love. Of course DOING any of these things is NOT normal but having intrusive thoughts like these IS normal. Sometimes thoughts like these come to us precisely because we do not want to act in this way; they are simply the most inappropriate thing your mind can imagine.

It’s a little bit like if someone says to you “whatever you do, don’t touch that button” or “don’t think of a pink elephant”. In the first case, all we can think of is our desire to touch the button and in the second case, we can’t get that pesky pink elephant out of our minds.

Obsessive thoughts can cause much distress

Sometimes however, intrusive thoughts can start to take over someone’s life – they become more than fleeting – they are powerful and at times, ever present. We call these types of thoughts obsessive.

Some common examples are:

  • Fear about the future
  • Fears about our safety or our physical or mental health
  • Fears about the safety, health and well-being of people we love
  • Memories from the past (for example a relationship break up or a past trauma)
  • Inappropriate thoughts of a sexual or violent nature

We can also experience intrusive images – often fleeting, with similar themes to those above.

An excerpt from Psychology Today

“I’ll begin with a topic near and dear to my heart: intrusive thoughts. I am a new mother. I adore my son. He is beautiful and sweet and playful. And, when he was younger, I couldn’t stand at the top of my stairs without imagining myself dropping him down the stairs and seeing his tiny, helpless body writhing in pain. Scary image? Yes! Normal? Yes!”

“These thoughts seem to come from out of nowhere, arrive with a distressing whoosh, and cause a great deal of anxiety. The content of intrusive obsessive thoughts almost always focus on sexual or violent images. Here are typical examples of intrusive obsessive thoughts: “Killing someone. Torturing a pet animal. Stabbing a child. Throwing someone (or yourself) out of a window. Jumping onto a train track as the train comes into the station. Molesting a child. Raping someone. Taking off your clothes in public.” This is not a complete list, but it gives you a good feeling of the content of these thoughts.”

Need some advice and support?

If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.


Book a counselling session today!

See also: All You Need to Know about Anxiety, What is Anxiety, Managing Anxiety