What Mental Problems Are Associated With Intrusive Thoughts?

What mental problems are associated with intrusive thoughts?

Have you ever had thoughts spontaneously, seemingly out of nowhere, that generate an intense emotional reaction in you?

Almost all of us experience unpleasant thoughts that we would prefer not to have. Of course, intrusive thoughts are disturbing most of the time, but they are completely normal.

However, for a small part of the population, these thoughts go further and are associated with some mental health problem. In this article We will talk about what these intrusive thoughts are, which are the most frequent and what mental problems they are associated with..

  • Related article: “The 8 higher psychological processes”

What are intrusive thoughts?

Intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts, images or impulses that arise in our heads. They can occur spontaneously or can be caused by external or internal stimuli. Besides, These thoughts are generally distressing and tend to repeat themselves..

Intrusive thoughts often cause feelings of guilt, shame and/or fear. Consequently, many people do not reveal these thoughts to others. However, intrusive thoughts are much more common than is commonly believed.

When we talk about intrusive thoughts, they are usually associated exclusively with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. But the truth is that they are often also part of the symptoms of other disorders, such as anxiety disorders.

Furthermore, intrusive thoughts They are not exclusive to people who have a mental health problem. They are also experienced by the general population.

You may be interested:  Blindness (visual Impairment): What it Is, Types, Causes and Treatment

These thoughts are just that, thoughts (although, very harmful, on many occasions). They are not warning messages. What gives them power is that those who experience them care about their meaning.

intrusive thoughts
  • You may be interested: “What is mental rumination and how to deal with it effectively”

The most frequent intrusive thoughts, with examples

The most common general themes of intrusive thoughts are: the idea of ​​doing harm, violent experiences, sexual behaviors, ideas linked to religion, or thoughts based on worry about making mistakes and causing accidents.

Some intrusive thoughts that have been identified in the general population are the following: thoughts of swerving the car causing a crash, images of harming a loved one, thoughts of contracting illnesses, impulses of doing something embarrassing, thoughts of leaving an appliance on. , blasphemous thoughts…

Let’s see some examples below:

  • What happens if I drop this plate on the floor?
  • The sudden image a mother has of dropping her baby.
  • What happens if I push this person onto the train tracks?
  • A woman in good health who has thoughts of dying from a heart attack.
  • Images engaging in a sexual act that the person considers inappropriate.
  • A religious person has a sudden urge to stand up during a religious ceremony and starts shouting obscenities.
  • A straight man has a random thought about sleeping with another man.

These intrusive thoughts typically cause great distress.especially when they are perceived as out of place or that they go against the person’s own values.

In what disorders do intrusive thoughts appear?

As we have mentioned previously, anyone can experience intrusive thoughts. These types of thoughts are not always the result of a mental problem, nor does their existence mean that we need psychological attention.

You may be interested:  7 Natural Anxiolytics, and How to Prepare Them

However, if you have very frequent intrusive thoughts, they cause you great distress or if you focus excessively on them, there may be an underlying mental disorder. Below, we are going to review some of the disorders in which these thoughts are a common symptom.

1. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) occurs when intrusive thoughts become uncontrollable. These intrusive thoughts (called obsessions) can cause the person to repeat behaviors (called compulsions) in the hope that carrying out the compulsion will end the thoughts.

Some examples of these types of intrusive thoughts include worrying about whether the doors have been closed properly or the hob turned off, or worrying about contracting an illness from touching a dirty surface.

2. Post-traumatic stress disorder

People who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often experience intrusive thoughts that are usually related to the traumatic event. These thoughts can trigger some physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate and intense sweating.

Dr. Iratxe López Psychology

Dr. Iratxe López Psychology

Clinical Psychologist

Verified Professional
Online therapy
View profile

3. Anxiety disorders

People with anxiety are also carried away by unwanted thoughts. (although of a less intense caliber than in OCD). People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, for example, may be prone to worrying about the safety of their loved ones.

People with social anxiety, meanwhile, may have difficulty letting go of memories of a time when they made a mistake in a social situation.