How To Overcome Intrusive Thoughts

To overcome intrusive thoughts, it’s important to first realise you’re in complete control of yourself and it simply feels like you’re not when an intrusive thought has a strong grip on you. Knowledge is very important if you’re going to achieve that, so here’s a page that’ll help you to understand intrusive thoughts and explain how you can overcome them:

Intrusive thoughts are ego-dystonic. This means they’re the very opposite of your character. You have these thoughts because you DON’T want them because they’re everything you’re against morally and as a result you’re perceiving them as threatening, so your brain flags them as important.

You never have to fear acting on an intrusive thought. You’re terrified of these thoughts. They’re your worst fears which is why they’re so hard to ignore and you’re suffering as a result. You’re not just suddenly going to reverse your character and find it acceptable to act on them. You’re only suffering like this because you’re a good, kind and moral person.

Analysing the thoughts is the problem. Every human being has intrusive thoughts. However only OCD sufferers react to them for a prolonged time rather than shrug them off because of how our brains flag them as important. The more attention you pay to an intrusive, the more it sticks around because it’s being given importance that it doesn’t deserve to have. By accepting that you’ll have these thoughts and understanding that you’re the one in control you can get on with life whilst they’re in your head in confidence they’ll fade out when you don’t respond to them and as a result show your brain they’re not a threat.

Spiking is a good thing. Spiking refers to an increase in symptoms (intrusive thoughts, anxiety, compulsions) as a result of an intrusive thought that gets our attention. Spiking is incredibly uncomfortable so is often avoided by sufferers. However, spiking is actually a good thing, as it’s an opportunity to practise recovery techniques. You should put yourself in situations that you find uncomfortable (e.g. if you have a fear of being a rapist, go outside and walk past as many people as you can rather than avoiding going outside at all) because then you’re facing your fear and proving to yourself that you’re in control.

Beware of ‘backdoor’ spikes. When you start to recover you’ll notice a decrease in anxiety. This does not mean you’ve become your fear. It simply means you’re starting to understand the thoughts are ludicrous and not threatening. If people analyse the fact they’re not suffering anxiety as a result of an intrusive they’ll ruminate in fear having become what they loathe (which causes them to spike again) but this is simply not the case.

Knowing this will give you the tools you need to start tackling your disorder. You’ll suffer more anxiety at first (especially if you’re spiking yourself intentionally), but it’ll lead to long term relief, which is far better than the temporary relief reassurance provides.

- Nathan

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