What can you do if you feel your intrusive thoughts are real?

 This blog answers: What can you do if you feel your intrusive thoughts are real? What are the treatment options for intrusive thoughts? What are intrusive thoughts? What are the types of intrusive thoughts? What are the possible causes of intrusive thoughts?

What can you do if you feel your intrusive thoughts are real?

Counseling is Key to a Healthy Marr... x
Counseling is Key to a Healthy Marriage

Steps that individuals can adopt when they feel their intrusive thoughts are real are:

  • Label them as intrusive thoughts
  • Remember that you are not responsible for them, and these are automatic thoughts
  • Do not try to push them away rather acknowledge and allow the thoughts into your mind.
  • Give yourself some time
  • Allow time to pass patiently
  • Expect these thoughts to be recurrent
  • Do not disrupt your routine and carry out whatever you were doing before the intrusive thoughts.
  • Try and understand what your thoughts indicate
  • Actively check if all these measures are helping to get rid of the thoughts

Significantly, the above approach is difficult and challenging to follow however individuals who are persistent with this approach show a significant decrease in the frequency and intensity of their intrusive thoughts.

What are the treatment options for intrusive thoughts?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the widely used psychotherapy that helps to replace individuals negative thoughts with more positive ones

Online therapy  

In cases where reaching out physically to a professional is impossible or discomforting an individual can opt to seek help through the online medium. 

In this, the therapy sessions are carried out one-to-one over a video or audio call. Some individuals also prefer interacting with the therapist through text as well due to various reasons. One of the most common is the fear of being judged by the therapist or some personal hesitation. 

Online therapy can help individuals to regulate some aspects of their intrusive thoughts that aids individuals in carrying out a stress-free life over time

ADAA guidelines

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, some tips for dealing with intrusive thoughts are:

  • Practicing meditation or mindfulness
  • Being aware that the thoughts might come back
  • Continuing normal behavior
  • Accepting the intrusive thoughts rather than escaping from them
  • Acknowledging them as intrusive
  • Labeling them as involuntary and irrelevant
  • Avoiding pushing the thoughts away
  • Avoiding engagement with their thoughts


Medications that involve selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and other antidepressants such as Clomipramine might help individuals with their intrusive thoughts. However, these medications take about 8 to 12 weeks to start working on the intrusive thoughts.

What are intrusive thoughts?

Intrusive thoughts refer to the unnecessary thoughts that are recurrent and unexpected which can have an unpleasant or discomforting effect on an individual.

According to the anxiety and depression association of America, these intrusive thoughts are involuntary where a person does not have any control over them.

According to the National Institute of mental health, intrusive thoughts are the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and can also be typical of anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Intrusive thoughts are distressing in nature and the more people try to get rid of them the more they occur and become more intense.

What are the types of intrusive thoughts?

Some types of intrusive thoughts are:

Sexual intrusive thoughts

Sexual intrusive thoughts are those which are based on a person’s sexuality or sexually harming others. Some examples of sexual intrusive thoughts are:

  • Fear of being attracted to members of their family
  • Fear of being sexually attracted to infants
  • Fear regarding one’s sexual orientation

Relationship intrusive thoughts

Relationship intrusive thoughts might be about people and their relationships. Some examples of relationship intrusive thoughts are:

  • Seeking reassurance from their partner
  • Doubts about fidelity
  • Analyzing strength of your feelings for their partners and finding faults.

Religious intrusive thoughts

Religious intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts related to one’s religious beliefs. some examples of religious intrusive thoughts are:

  • Repeating prayers continuously
  • Fear of losing touch with God or their beliefs
  • Constantly analyzing fate
  • Fear of not being forgiven by God and being sent to hell as a consequence
  • Holding negative thoughts in a religious building

Violent intrusive thoughts

A person who experienced violent intrusive thoughts might harm others or themselves. People who experience these thoughts might avoid social situations and contact with others .some examples of violent intrusive thoughts are:

  • Killing others
  • Harming loved ones or children
  • Poisoning food for loved ones
  • Using knives or other items to harm others

 What are the possible causes of intrusive thoughts?

 The possible causes of intrusive thoughts are: 

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Increased and challenging situations and demands in day-to-day life.
  • Major changes in family dynamics such as marriage, divorce, death of a loved one.
  • Strain interpersonal relationships
  • Intrapersonal conflicts
  • Ineffective coping mechanisms
  • Comorbid conditions both physical and mental
  • Chronic health conditions
  • Genetic factors
  • Changes in the brain region
  • Overdose of caffeine
  • Prolonged use of medications
  • Significant traumatic experiences in the past or recent times
  • Comorbid mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder or any other phobias.


Many individuals might experience unwanted automatic thoughts which are discomforting and unpleasant. When these thoughts become high in intensity and cause regular distress to individuals, they must seek help from the therapist or the doctor who can guide them in understanding what is the cause of these thoughts and the best possible treatment for them.

Frequently asked questions: What can you do if you feel your intrusive thoughts are real?

Can intrusive thoughts be real?

Experiencing intrusion and invasive thoughts is normal for many individuals who have been through stressful situations of varying degrees. Studies also indicate that 94% of people experience intrusive thoughts daily.

Can intrusive thoughts be fake?

False memory obsessive-compulsive disorder is a group of obsessive-compulsive disorder presentations where individuals experiencing it are worried about a thought that appears to relate to some events that have taken place in the past. These events can be something that had happened or something that is completely fabricated by the mind.

Are dark thoughts normal?

Experiencing dark thoughts is absolutely normal. Many well-conducted studies indicate that about 100% of the general population might experience disturbing or intrusive thoughts, images, and ideas.

Can intrusive thoughts be memories?

Intrusive thoughts can be experienced by people in the form of nightmares, images, and flashbacks. These memories do not have a sense of awareness from the past rather are experienced as a potential concern of the present.

Why do I have intrusive thoughts about killing?

Thoughts about killing or homicidal thoughts are a common symptom of harm obsessive-compulsive disorder which is a subset of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Harm obsessive-compulsive disorder is one of the most experienced types of obsessive-compulsive disorder which is 66% more common.



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