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intrusive thoughts Intrusive thoughts are sudden, involuntary thoughts that can be disturbing. These thoughts can be distressing for the individual, but they do not lead to harmful action.

Although everyone may occasionally experience sudden thoughts that can be distressing or uncomfortable, some individuals experience frequentTrusted Source, involuntary thoughts that cause great stress and anxiety.

In this article, we discuss what intrusive thoughts are, some myths that surround them, and how a person can get treatment.

What are they?

According to the National Institute of Mental HealthTrusted Source, intrusive thoughts are among the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They can also be a featureTrusted Source of anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts that seem to occur out of the blue. They can be disturbing and unpleasant.

The thoughts can also be explicit, which can lead to people keeping them a secret and not seeking help because they feel ashamed.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), intrusive thoughts are involuntary and have no bearing on reality or a person’s desires. People do not act on these thoughts, typically finding them shocking and unacceptable.

Intrusive thoughts can be persistent and cause significant distress in some people. Often, the harder people try to rid themselves of these thoughts, the more they persist, and the more intense they become.

Common types of intrusive thoughts

Intrusive thoughts are usually unpleasant and can be shocking.

It is essential to understand that intrusive thoughts are involuntary. People who experience them typically feel repulsed by their nature.

There are many types of intrusive thoughts. According to OCD-UK, a charity in the United Kingdom, common topics of intrusive thoughts include:

Sexual intrusive thoughts

Sexual intrusive thoughts tend to revolve around a person’s sexuality or sexually harming others.

Examples of sexual intrusive thoughts can include:

  • fear of being sexually attracted to infants
  • fear of being attracted to members of their family
  • fears regarding their sexual orientation

Relationship intrusive thoughts

People may worry about their relationships, on which these thoughts can place a strain.

Examples of relationship intrusive thoughts can include:

  • analyzing the strength of their feelings for their partner obsessively and finding fault
  • constantly seeking reassurance from their partner
  • doubts regarding fidelity

Religious intrusive thoughts

Types of religious intrusive thoughts can include:

  • God not forgiving them for their perceived sins and sending them to hell
  • having negative thoughts in a religious building
  • repeating certain prayers continually
  • fears that they have lost touch with God or their beliefs
  • constantly analyzing their faith

Violent intrusive thoughts

A person may experience thoughts about being violent toward themselves or others.

Common violent intrusive thoughts include:

  • harming loved ones or children
  • killing others
  • using knives or other items to harm others, which can result in a person locking away sharp objects
  • poisoning food for loved ones, which can result in the person avoiding cooking

People experiencing these thoughts may avoid public places and contact with people.


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