Iintrusive thoughts are treatable. Yes, they are terrifying. And it’s terrible to think about doing things that you find objectionable – even hideous. But the tortuous thoughts can become less frequent and intense if they are not eliminated. Let’s talk about how to deal with intrusive thoughts …
Our mate’s expression has gone from stunned horror in the first part to hopeful listening. He has had intrusive thoughts for about a month and has just learned they are treatable. He is cautiously ready to talk about them and accept help.
We started this two-part series last week when we were discussing what intrusive thoughts are and what causes them. If you haven’t read the first part, make sure you take care of it because now we are going to learn how to handle them.
Quick review: An intrusive thought (IT) is an invasive – often shocking and graphically disruptive – involuntary thought, image, and / or unpleasant idea. In many cases, IT can become an obsession: a continuous thought, concept, image or urge that is perceived as invasive and improper and leads to significant fear, distress or discomfort.
I know ITs well. There was a time when some of me chilled me to the bone. But not anymore.
Come on let’s see what we can see …
How are intrusive thoughts handled?
As with any illness that we talk about here at inspire4u, treating IT is determined by the influence of thoughts on one’s routine – life. For many, self-treatment works flawlessly with selected strategies and techniques. For others, therapy, even medication, is the way to go.
Let’s get started right away as we look at some key facts and tips anyone can use to manage their ITs.
- Learn all about ITs and get to know the context in which yours appear. Maybe it’s due to obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, generalized anxiety, or severe stress. Maybe something else. Always remember that our brains are very good at generating “junk thoughts”.
- When it comes to IT, a certain thought is not a predictor of future action. A thought is not an impulse, and impulse control is not the problem here.
- Do everything you can to keep IT out of your mind or get it out of your mind. Open your mind and let IT in.
- Forget the supposed literal meaning of IT. The more you think about it, the more intense it gets. Trying to use reason and control will only make matters worse.
- Don’t waste time trying to convince yourself that you are not responding to the thoughts. And don’t change any of your behaviors to avoid action. Think about the last time you had IT. You did not act.
- Identify the triggers of your ITs. And instead of avoiding them, spend time with them. Learn that there is no danger.
- Monitor and manage your anxiety, stress, and fatigue. You keep making ITs worse.
- Remember that IT is the way you get your attention so that you slow down and engage yourself emotionally.
- Once you’ve slowed down, adjusted and believed you can handle your emotional experiences, the ITs can brighten up. After all, they have accomplished their mission. So what reason must they have?
- Given that an IT department might be sending you an important message, when you think about it, ask yourself questions like: “What am I really trying to control, avoid, or fill?” “What is the thought trying to protect me from?”
- Be it with a spouse, partner, friend, therapist, spiritual leader, or any other person you can trust, talk about your ITs. You have to reveal your secret.
There are many more facts and tips. However, this is a good start to managing your IT. But there won’t be any relief if you don’t start editing them – now.
What therapies and medications are used for intrusive thoughts?
Perhaps your ITs are causing a disruption to routine – life -. It happens and when it does, it’s time for professional assistance.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to treat IT. CBT simply helps understand the effect thoughts, especially negative ones, have on behavior. Yes, they are related to each other.
Then there is exposure and reaction prevention therapy (ERP), a form of CBT. Many consider ERP to be the treatment of choice for ITs. ERP is simply the practice of staying in a fearful or feared situation (in this case, IT – which can be an obsession) until the stress or fear subsides. This will help circumvent an obsessive-compulsive response like avoidance.
For example, someone can have IT to physically harm a child. Maybe IT has become an obsession. It makes sense that individuals do everything in their power to avoid children.
Activities – compulsive reactions – to allegedly prevent the feared outcome of IT, only serve to strengthen it. You see, it’s all about negative reinforcement: the mind learns that the only way to avoid a thought or feeling is to engage in a reactive (compulsive) thought and / or behavior. And we want to get around that.
Ultimately, then, relief comes when the door to IT is opened after learning to stay away from the obsessive reaction side of the fence.
Now, ERP is unlikely to eliminate ITs entirely. But millions of people endure unwanted thoughts and consider them just anger. And this is where we want to go: to a point of management where routine, life and interference are eliminated.
There are drugs available to treat ITs. Typically, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are prescribed: paroxetine (Paxil), fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), fluvoxamine (Luvox), escitalopram (Lexapro), and citalopram (Celexa). The tricyclic antidepressant clomipramine (Anafranil) is also prescribed. An atypical antipsychotic such as aripiprazole (Abilify) or quetiapine (Seroquel) can be used as an augmentation agent. A benzodiazepine like Clonazepam (Klonopin) can also be prescribed to bring one over the hump.
Note that the above drugs are used for ITs caused by their most common generator, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or similar circumstance. We know ITs can appear as a manifestation of other emotional / mental disorders. In such cases, other drugs can be prescribed.
This is how the series goes
Well, that will do it for our two-part intrusive thought series. If you found it relevant, I hope you found it helpful.
Believe me, I know how terrifying and shameful intrusive thoughts can be. But I also know that through learning and using well-considered strategies and techniques, the frequency and intensity can decrease if they don’t go away completely.
Take the heart okay The torture of intrusive thoughts can no longer be.
Be sure to read the first part here too.
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