What are intrusive thoughts? Experts weigh in on a commonly misunderstood mental health term
Intrusive thoughts are repetitive and unwanted thoughts that can occur suddenly, causing anxiety, disgust, or distress. They often revolve around violent, sexually inappropriate, or disturbing content, which is in opposition to a person’s values or character. While many people experience occasional intrusive thoughts, those with mental health disorders, such as OCD, PTSD, eating disorders, anxiety, or depression, may have more severe and distressing experiences.
The causes of intrusive thoughts are not fully understood, but they can be more prominent during stressful periods when individuals seek control or certainty in their environment. Treatment options include exposure and response prevention therapy, a type of cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps individuals learn that their thoughts are not dangerous. Medication may also be considered in some cases. Lifestyle factors like exercise, sleep, and a balanced diet can complement treatment but should not replace professional help. Resisting or analyzing intrusive thoughts is not effective and can exacerbate the issue. It’s essential to remember that having these thoughts does not make someone a dangerous person, and they should seek help if intrusive thoughts interfere with their daily life.
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