Depression: Thinking of Hurting Others (5 Tips)

In this brief guide, we will be discussing the relationship between depression and thinking of hurting others, intrusive thoughts, psychological disorders related to intrusive thoughts, its signs and symptoms, ways to manage intrusive thoughts and we will be answering frequently asked questions about the subject.

What do you call it when you have thoughts of hurting others when depressed? 

Thought of hurting others when depressed is called “intrusive thoughts”. Intrusive thoughts are disturbing and violent thoughts that can get stuck in your mind and can make you ruminate about them. They cause distress and are naturally upsetting. When they frequently occur, this can worsen it and may need a call for attention.

They come in our minds out of nowhere and may make us act upon it by having suicidal thoughts, suicidal ideations or suicidal attempts. This may also make us violent towards ourselves and others. Intrusive thoughts can be hard to manage and eliminate.

Intrusive thoughts can occur randomly, to anyone at any time. These are common among people who suffer from anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD) and postpartum depression. Even though they know it is not right, others cannot help to continually think of hurting themselves or others

For people who have signs of OCD, compulsions may be a result of these intrusive thoughts. Compulsions are actions that are executed because they believe acting on the obsessions will relieve them from their anxiety or rumination about it. Obsessions, on the other hand, are unwanted thoughts, feelings, intrusive thoughts or images in one’s mind that urges you to give in to compulsions.

Women who experience postpartum depression may have the undesirable thoughts of harming their infants.

It has been found in research that intrusive thoughts that occur repeatedly have a high risk of developing anxiety and depression. People who are experiencing this have a hard time managing and dealing with them. They can be confused about how to get rid of them, therefore resulting in more production of cortisol in the brain.

Having intrusive thoughts may also cause a person to have either depression or anxiety or experience them together. Also, either the anxiety will cause the depression or the depression will cause the anxiety.

Actually hurting yourself or harming others is already beyond intrusive thoughts. If you think you are having suicidal thoughts and attempts because of your intrusive thoughts or are about to act upon the  discomfort these thoughts bring, seek help or call your mental health care provider or organizations you have access to.

Types of intrusive thoughts

Sexual intrusive thoughts

Sexual intrusive thoughts circle around the individual’s sexuality or sexual tendencies. Some examples are:

–          being sexually attracted to babies

–          being attracted to members of the family or relatives

–          fears or anxiety regarding their sexuality

Relationship intrusive thoughts

Relationship intrusive thoughts may affect the dynamics of one’s relationship with others. Some examples are:

–          doubting their partner’s fidelity

–          seeking assurance from their partners constantly

–          overthinking what they’re partners can offer them and finding flaws

Religious intrusive thoughts

These thoughts are related to someone’s faith: Some examples are:

–          thinking God will not forgive them of the mistake or mistakes they have done

–          overanalyzing their faith

–          fear of losing touch with God and their faith

–          obsessive repetition of prayers

–          having negative thoughts in a holy place

Violent intrusive thoughts

Thoughts of harming others or the self can occur to an individual. Some example are:

–          harming or killing other people

–          harming or killing their children

–          harming or killing their loved ones

–          ruminating on self-harming and what they can use and do to execute it (suicidal ideation)

–          putting poisons on food for their loved ones resulting to avoidance in cooking

Experiences of intrusive thoughts can be a terrifying experience for a person. This causes distress or even may put someone in danger. However, it is important to note that people who have these intrusive thoughts do not actually want to harm themselves or others and do not always have a core or solid reason for them to experience it.

Types of Intrusive Thoughts in Depression

Some examples are:

·         black and white or all or nothing thinking

·         extreme pessimism and overthinking negative outcomes

·         catastrophizing

·         trying to read what is going on on some else’s mind and assume what they think about them

·         predicting the future and going way ahead of the present

·         magnifying flaws, mistakes, mishaps and misfortunes

·         overgeneralizing

Causes of Intrusive Thoughts

–          Obsessive-compulsive Disorder

–          Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

–          Eating Disorder

–          brain injury

–          Parkinson’s Disease

–          dementia

–          thought patterns changing

–          unwanted disturbing images and thoughts

–          obsessive thoughts

While these thoughts are disturbing and terrifying, it is not something to be ashamed of but rather addressed to.There are also other medical conditions that may cause intrusive thoughts. Consult your physician. 

What are the signs and symptoms of depression?

There are many signs and symptoms that one may have before being diagnosed with it. At least 5 of the following symptoms should be present before being diagnosed with depression during the 2-week period and at least either or both symptoms, depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure is present:

– most of the day in a depressed mood, nearly everyday as observed by one’s self and/or others. (note: children may show agitation)

– anhedonia or loss of interest in pleasurable activities

– drastic weight loss or weight gain

– unfocused or diminished thinking


– feelings of unworthiness

– psychomotor agitation

– having recurring thoughts of suicide or death

– lack of sleep or excessive sleep

Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD)

OCD is a psychological disorder characterized by obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are thoughts or images that ruminate in the mind of the person which can lead to compulsions. Compulsions are behaviors driven by the obsessions believed by a person who has symptoms of OCD to relieve them from the uncomfortable feelings or the anxiety from it.

It is important to note that the obsessions are not real but may root from an underlying reason that causes it. Compulsions also do not truly relieve a person from the obsessions but might worsen their condition instead.

Intrusive thoughts are common among people who have OCD which may lead to depression. Because of the terrifying and uncomfortable experience of intrusive thoughts, people may opt to withdraw from their loved ones or others with the belief that they might actually harm the people around them by giving in to their compulsions.

Post-traumatic Disorders

People who have experience or witnessed traumatic events may have PTSD. Their intrusive thoughts might be related to the trauma. In some occasions, they tend to have flashbacks and relive the traumatic event with or without cues or triggers which causes significant psychological distress, danger and dysfunction.  

Eating Disorders

Having an eating disorder may lead you to behaviors that will actually harm you physically such as avoidance of food, obsessively reevaluating and counting your calorie intake and purging. These behaviors are causing harm that may root from intrusive thoughts and the anxiety. Unhealthy perception of their body image is one of the many causes of their anxiety.

How can I be diagnosed with intrusive thoughts?

If you think you have the symptoms of intrusive thoughts, it is best to go to your health care provider first. They will review and evaluate your symptoms, sometimes run some tests, physical exams or lab results. At other times, may recommend a psychological evaluation.

If no physical condition is found, you will most likely be forwarded or recommended to see a psychiatrist or psychologist.

From there, sessions, interviews, tests and assessments will be conducted for further investigations. In between, you will be given assignments as part of the intervention.  

What are ways to manage intrusive thoughts?

·         Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

·         medication

·         try meditation

·         practice self-care

·         join support groups

·         get social support

·         avoidance or triggering objects, people or any stimuli

·         rituals done mentally

·         seeking reassurance

·         in vivo exposure

·         imaginal exposure

·         interoceptive exposure

Having intrusive thoughts does not always mean you have an underlying condition or you are suffering from a psychological disorder. It is experienced by most, if not all of us. It can be a normal thing and can only become excessive when it impairs your functioning, causes distress, imposes danger, keeps you away from others and the usual things you do.

If this is so, you should consult and seek assistance with your mental health provider or reach to organizations or people you can access to facilitate you with the discomfort of intrusive thoughts.

If you are diagnosed with disorders causing you intrusive thoughts, be patient and kind with yourself as you go along the treatment process. Getting out of a mental illness is not the goal but the journey.

FAQs: Depression: Thinking of Hurting Others 

What mental illness causes intrusive thoughts?

The two most common mental illnesses that cause intrusive thoughts are Obsessive-compulsive Disorders and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Intrusive thoughts can also be a symptom of PTSD, Bipolar Disorder and ADHD or Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder.

Is it normal to have thoughts killing someone?

Yes, it is. However, they should not be dangerous. Unless it is acted upon. Moreso, having recurrent thoughts of harming or killing someone should be addressed to a mental health professional for help and assistance.

Can intrusive thoughts feel real?

Yes, it can. Intrusive thoughts can be obsessive and may take a toll on someone’s mental health. These are uncomfortable, terrifying and unpleasurable thoughts that ruminate on somebody’s mind. However, they are not actually real. These are just thoughts. But note that our minds are powerful, and so are such thoughts. You should be mindful of how this is affecting you physically and psychologically. Get social support or ask professional help if need be.

How do you deal with violent intrusive thoughts?

Here are few ways on how to deal with violent intrusive thoughts:
·         Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
·         medication
·         try meditation
·         practice self-care
·         join support groups
·         get social support
·         avoidance or triggering objects, people or any stimuli
·         rituals done mentally
·         seeking reassurance
·         in vivo exposure
·         imaginal exposure
·         interoceptive exposure

What are intrusive thoughts a sign of?

Intrusive thoughts are signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression, attention deficit and hyperactive disorder and bipolar disorder. Intrusive thoughts may also be a sign of stress and underlying hostility or just random thoughts that occur out of the blue.

What are OCD intrusive thoughts?

OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder intrusive thoughts are unwanted, undesirable repetitive thoughts or images that may urge someone to act upon them with the belief that they will be relieved and shake off these uncomfortable thoughts. Rituals may be a way to act upon them and this is considered to be a compulsion.
Intrusive thoughts may occur randomly wherever and whenever.


In this brief guide, we discussed the relationship between depression and thinking of hurting others, intrusive thoughts, psychological disorders related to intrusive thoughts, its signs and symptoms, ways to manage intrusive thoughts and we answered frequently asked questions about the subject.