top of page

What are intrusive thoughts?

We all have ‘intrusive thoughts’. We don’t know why, but it is a natural human experience to have thoughts that just pop into our heads. Lots of these thoughts are really helpful.

What are intrusive thoughts?

We all have ‘intrusive thoughts’. We don’t know why, but it is a natural human experience to have thoughts that just pop into our heads. Lots of these thoughts are really helpful. For example, suddenly knowing the answer to a problem, we have all experienced that, right? I know I have, not knowing what to do about something, and then, in time, suddenly the thought of how to solve it is there, and it is like hey presto! We like those kinds of intrusive thoughts. We all also experience images, doubt and impulses. We all, also have less helpful intrusive thoughts, like, did I leave the hair straighteners on, did I run over that cat on the way to work, did I leave the tap on. Many of us are able to just let those thoughts go and not give it further thought unless you have OCD.
I say to all my OCD clients, therefore, that there is nothing wrong with them as such. What seems to happen in OCD is that people get stuck with these thoughts, images, impulses and doubt (intrusions) and process them in different ways to those without OCD. They start to think about what harm might come about from these intrusions and wondering or fearing they may be responsible for causing harm (in CBT we call this an ‘over inflated sense of responsibility’, very formal terminology!).
For example, we can think and think we want to win the lottery, but does that make us win the lottery? No, right? Sad though that is, and believe me I have tried!!! It is the same principle with all thoughts, thoughts alone do not make things happen. We will explore this in great depth in therapy.
The terror of causing harm to others or yourself then leads to trying to control intrusions to reduce the potential and feared harm to others or self. People with OCD will then go to huge lengths to try and ensure they are not responsible for causing this feared harm to themselves or others.
People with OCD become so stuck in obsessions of washing, checking and other compulsions they are actually afraid of the fear rather than the actual object of the fear doing anything to get rid of that horrible feeling of anxiety.
This then lead to the behaviour having to be repeated over and over again or until it feels just right. OCD makes up the most complicated rules and have you noticed, changes the rules all the time?
Have you ever got so fed up with the compulsions you have cut them short or not done it? Or maybe forgotten or been so busy at work not able to do them? Have the bad things that OCD threatened would happen, happen? My guess is no, what does that say about OCD’s rules?

bottom of page