OTR Blogger | 20th March 2017

OTR Life – “Intrusive Thoughts”


This is the latest in a series of blog posts from one of our Mental Health Practitioners. See #OTRBlog on Twitter for more!


Throughout my time training and reflecting on mental health, I have been hearing about intrusive thoughts. But at some point I realised: I’d been experiencing them for many years. Yep, you have too – it’s just how our minds work.

The problem is no-one talks about them because they feel strange and insular.

Intrusive thoughts come in all shapes and sizes, differing in content and varying in intensity.

Mine come in the form of thoughts of sudden fatal accidents involving me and my family and friends. I didn’t really ever tell anyone about these visuals of distressing events happening because they are so random and quick that even trying to recall them is difficult. I might be sitting at home then a thoughts pops up that a helicopter propeller might swing through the window and chop my head off (WOW what an imagination!)

I won’t physically feel any different, and generally I’ll just think “Oh that isn’t very nice” and continue with my day.

For others, these thoughts can be really scary and overwhelming.

They can be isolating and make you feel out of control. You only need to search online for intrusive thoughts to see how common these “unusual” experiences actually are. It’s important to know that these thoughts are not rational and the thoughts are no more likely to happen than any other thoughts (such as flying unicorns).

(btw we totally just wanted an excuse to whack out a flying unicorn gif)

This is an important point for people who experience violent or sexual intrusive thoughts because these can be the most concerning. Also, contrary to popular belief, analysing these thoughts (yes we all love a bit of analysis) can cause even more distress because they don’t have historical relevance.

When our team assesses young people in the hospital, a huge proportion disclose experiencing intrusive thoughts or images (not to be confused with symptoms of psychosis).

When you are living with depression or anxiety, these thoughts can be an even greater challenge. But, what is vital is that we spread the word, and that we educate each other about mental health, and instead of being labelled with something, we accept that most experiences are actually pretty normal.

Only then can we start to talk to our friends or our family without fear of being misunderstood. 

I tried to understand intrusive thoughts for years until I finally learned that understanding it is pointless. Understanding what they are was helpful. There’s nothing wrong with these thoughts, but the impact of them can be devastating if left without further care. 

I came across this brilliant resource which simply educates on intrusive thoughts.

Also, if you want to read another excellent blog specifically about intrusive thoughts, see here from the brilliant Mind.

You’re not alone 🙂

Thoughts are thoughts!