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.
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.
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.
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.