STRUGGLING with DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, or BIPOLARITY? LEARNING can really HELP. Start with ARTICLES above or Topics below. Ty! Bill

“My God, I can’t be thinking these things!” Relax, they’re intrusive thoughts.

I was walking down a sidewalk on Grand River Ave. in East Lansing, MI during my college years. Approaching me was a young mother happily pushing her toddler in a stroller. And the thought came out of nowhere: “Wonder what would happen if I picked up the stroller, child and all, and threw it into the street.”

I can’t tell you the huge measure of relief I experienced some 20 years ago when I learned about what I’d been experiencing. And the learning, in and of itself, had such a major positive impact upon the occurrence of my disturbing thoughts.

But the fun didn’t end there. Half asleep in my room, I’d hear the midnight freight coming down the tracks about 300 yards from the dorm. And I’d wrestle with the thought of jumping out of bed, running to the tracks, and throwing myself in front of the train.

Well, believe me, there were so many more of these horrifying mind intrusions, and the variety of the madness was absolutely amazing.

So how ’bout you? Ever experienced similar horror?

Take a look at these pieces of narrative from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR)…

Obsessions are persistent ideas, thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced as intrusive and inappropriate and that cause marked anxiety or distress. The most common obsessions are…aggressive or horrific impulses (e.g., to hurt one’s child or to shout an obscenity in church).

Were you aware of this? If you’ve experienced what you now know to be intrusive thoughts, do you feel any better?

I can’t tell you the huge measure of relief I experienced some 20 years ago when I learned about what I’d been experiencing. And the learning, in and of itself, had such a major positive impact upon the occurrence of my disturbing thoughts.

You know, I remember some ten years ago a friend asked if she could confide in me. I couldn’t believe my ears when she revealed she’d been experiencing intrusive thoughts. Of course, she had no idea as to what they were and was frightened silly. Do you suppose she felt buckets of relief when I shared my experiences with her?

You bet she did.

Now, then – just because you’re dealing with intrusive thoughts doesn’t mean you’re suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Symptoms (I emphasize the word) such as intrusive thoughts can be a part of most any anxiety constellation – generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, PTSD, simple phobias, or social phobia. And, really, if the thoughts aren’t banging away at your life and causing big-time distress and interruption, they may not be representative of a disorder at all.

Well, what can we do about them?

  • Just knowing what it is we’re experiencing will kick a major dent into the occurrence of intrusive thoughts.
  • I noticed many years ago that the frequency of my intrusive thoughts significantly increased when I was under a lot of stress and fatigued. Soooo, let’s keep an eye on our lifestyle management skills, okay?
  • When an intrusive thought does occur, immediately transition your thinking to what you’ve learned, and accept what you’re experiencing within its true context. I’m telling you, you will not follow through on your feared behavior.
  • If you need additional assurance of what it is you’re experiencing, and what it is you won’t do, talk things over with your therapist or psychiatrist. And if you don’t have one, why not get one?
  • Do all you can to learn about what you’re experiencing. Education’s positive impact will amaze you.
  • Most of all, understand you’re not insane and you’re not a sociopath!

So what do you think? Intrusive thoughts – no fun at all, right? What have been your experiences with them, and what’s brought you relief? A comment (or two) will do just fine.