Identifying and Combating Intrusive Thoughts in Recovery | Banyan Mass

Identifying and Combating Intrusive Thoughts in Recovery

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Intrusive thoughts happen to those in the recovery community and to people who have never struggled with addiction.

Intrusive thoughts are common for those who suffer from mental health conditions such as OCD, anxiety, and PTSD, but they can happen to anyone. 1 The good news is, though intrusive thoughts can be scary, they are not a marker of who you are as a person and they don’t have to stick around. Our drug and alcohol rehab in Massachusetts outlines what intrusive thoughts are and what to do if they occur.

What are Intrusive Thoughts?

Intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts that pop into our heads and are typically disturbing or unsettling. They are generally the opposite of our actual desires, meaning a peaceful person may have an intrusive thought about committing a violent act, for example. 2 There is no doubt that intrusive thoughts can be disturbing. They vary from person to person, but can include violent thoughts, bad memories, or even thoughts that are explicitly sexual in nature. Many people mistake intrusive thoughts for impulses, but the two are completely different. Intrusive thoughts are essentially “brain junk” that will fade quickly if not given much attention.

What to Do When Intrusive Thoughts Happen

In the United States, it’s estimated that over 6 million people struggle with intrusive thoughts. 2 With so many people facing these disturbing thoughts, it’s important to k now how to combat them. The secret to controlling intrusive thoughts is to ignore them. If a strange thought pops into your head, let the thought pass, and move along with your day. The more attention you pay to the intrusive thought, the more you allow it to burrow into your consciousness, the more power the thought will have. The best way to control intrusive thoughts is to ignore them.

Intrusive Thoughts in Relapse

For former addicts, the content of intrusive thoughts may include using or getting drugs, alcohol, or other addictive substances. But just as violent intrusive thoughts are the opposite of a person’s desires, the intrusive thought of using drugs are the opposite of one’s desire to stay sober.

That being said, there is a fine line between intrusive thoughts and drug cravings. While an intrusive thought is “brain junk” that essentially pops up out of nowhere, cravings are something entirely different. If you have continued desire to use drugs or alcohol again, this is a trigger for relapse that must be addressed.

Call 888-280-4763 to learn how our drug, alcohol, and heroin addiction treatment near Boston can help you fight cravings and stick to sobriety. You can also call to connect with our mental health treatment facility to learn about our mental illness treatment programs.


  1. Positive Psychology Program - What Are Intrusive Thoughts in OCD & How to Get Rid Of Them?
  2. ADAA - Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts

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Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.