Intrusive Thoughts: Meaning, Myths, Help Strategies

What are intrusive thoughts? What are the myths surrounding the subject; how can one seek help in order to prevent intrusive thoughts from ruining the most important moments of our life?

A component of human cognition known as involuntary ideas can be both upsetting and perplexing.


These unwelcome, frequently upsetting thoughts can be bothersome, annoying, and seem to be out of control.

This blog article will examine the reasons behind such thoughts, dispel common misconceptions about them, and offer advice on how to get treatment if you have them.

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Meaning of Intrusive Thoughts

Unwanted and involuntary ideas, images, or impulses that repeatedly enter someone’s head and cause them concern or suffering are known as intrusive thoughts.

They frequently feature topics that go against one’s personal morals, such as aggressive or violent content, taboo subjects, or irrational fears.

Thoughts that are intrusive are more frequent than one might imagine.

According to research, 94% of people will at some point in their lives have intrusive thoughts.


However, from person to person, the degree and influence on daily functioning can differ greatly.

When intrusive thoughts frequently interfere with a person’s daily life, they can result in mental health issues.

Causes of Involuntary Thoughts

Intrusive Thoughts
  1. Defense Mechanism

It’s possible that intrusive thoughts developed as a defense mechanism to assist humans in recognizing potential dangers and ensuring their survival.

These thoughts, however, have a tendency to overflow and cause issues in contemporary life.

2. Anxiety and Stress

Involuntary thoughts are frequently linked to anxiety disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Stress and anxiety at high levels can make these conditions more frequent and intense.

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3. Traumatic Experiences

Traumatized people or those who have been exposed to upsetting experiences may be more susceptible to involuntary ideas.

Trauma-related involuntary thoughts might frequently relive the painful event and be especially distressing and vivid.

Intrusive thoughts come in different types.

In the next section, we will discuss the types of intrusive thoughts that people normally have.

4. Eating disorders

Involuntary ideas about their bodies, diets, or the drive to be ideal are common in people with eating disorders.

They might have food-related anxiety.

Intrusive Thoughts: Meaning, Myths, Help Strategies


There are numerous varieties of unwanted and involuntary ideas, images, or impulses people normally have, such as the ones listed below:

  1. Thoughts About Sex and Sexuality

Sexually intrusive thoughts typically center on one’s sexuality or sexually abusing others.

Typical examples of thoughts concerning sexuality include worries about having a sexual attraction to children, anxieties about having a sexual attraction to their family, and fears surrounding their sexual orientation.

2. Intrusive Thoughts About Relationships

Relationships can be strained by intrusive thoughts and people’s worries about them.

Obsessively assessing the intensity of their feelings and finding fault, needing reassurance from a spouse on a regular basis, obsessing over a partner leaving the relationship, and having worries about faithfulness are common examples of relationship-related thoughts.

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3. Thoughts About Religion

Intrusive thoughts can also be centered on one’s religion.

Thinking negative thoughts while in a place of worship, saying the same prayers repeatedly, worrying that they have forgotten their beliefs, or constantly questioning their faith, are common thoughts that people have

4. Intrusive Thoughts About Violence

It’s possible for someone to have violent thoughts regarding either oneself or other people.

Typical ideas include:

causing harm to family members or children, murdering others, or contaminating meals for loved ones.

People who have these views may shun social situations and other people.

5. Intrusive Thoughts About Eating Disorders

People who suffer from eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa frequently have intrusive thoughts.

Several recurring topics include:

Obsessive worries about gaining weight, erroneous attitudes about beauty, concepts of perfectionism, such as feeling unworthy of love if one does not have a good physique, obsessions with food, including obsessing over calories in food, and an obsession with eating.

Several myths surround intrusive thoughts, as people sometimes erroneously feel so bad about it.

What are the myths surrounding such thoughts?

Let’s see a few of them.

Intrusive Thoughts: Meaning, Myths, Help Strategies

Myths About Intrusive Thoughts

  1. Having intrusive thoughts means one is a bad person.

It’s erroneous that people feel this way about people who frequently have such thoughts.

It’s normal to have intrusive ideas, which don’t represent one’s genuine nature or goals.

They are not controllable by a person and are involuntary.

2. Having such thoughts means one will act on them.

It’s not the case that such thoughts would be acted on by those who have them.

The ADAA contends that the reverse is true.

The idea that it might prompt action is the most harmful fallacy about them.

Most people who experience these ideas struggle mightily to suppress them, which makes the thoughts more persistent.

The person’s desires or beliefs are in conflict with the thoughts.

Most people having such involuntary ideas find them distressing and actively work to resist acting on them; it is therefore an error and a myth when people think that such thoughts could be acted on.

3. Intrusive thoughts are only experienced by those who have mental problems.

No matter how well or poorly a person is, mentally, involuntary impulsions might still happen to them.

They are not exclusive to people with anxiety disorders or OCD, despite the fact that they are more prevalent in such people.

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Intrusive Thoughts: Meaning, Myths, Help Strategies

How To Seek Help for Intrusive Thoughts

  1. Using self-help strategies

One way of getting help to help prevent or minimize the impact of such thoughts is to employ self-help strategies.

Some self-help strategies may include the following:

Education on such thoughts: Having knowledge of intrusive thoughts and their typical origins can help people understand and normalize their experiences.

Mindfulness and Meditation: Mindfulness practice can help put some space between intrusive ideas and one’s emotional reaction, minimizing their influence.

Cognitive-Behavioral Techniques: Effective techniques to confront and alter intrusive thought patterns include cognitive restructuring and exposure therapy.

2. Professional Support

One can also seek professional support to help manage involuntary thoughts, through:

1. Therapy: Exposure and response prevention (ERP), cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and other research-based treatments can help people effectively control involuntary thoughts.

2. Medication: When intrusive thoughts are an indication of an underlying mental health issue, medication may occasionally be administered to ease the symptoms.

3. Support Networks

Finding online forums or support groups that concentrate on intrusive thoughts can give you a sense of affirmation, comprehension, and community.

Other helpful tips to deal with involuntary thoughts include:

Recognizing the intrusiveness of the ideas, emphasizing that they are uncontrollable and unrelated to daily life, embracing them instead of ignoring them, carrying on with normal conduct, and realizing that the ideas might resurface.

Although involuntary thoughts might be upsetting, it’s vital to keep in mind that they are common and do not reflect a person’s character.

People can effectively manage and control them by comprehending the causes, dispelling myths, and getting the right treatment.

Watch the video below:

Video Credit: Healthline Mental Health

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