Almost everyone will get strange or unpleasant thoughts and images that jump into their mind every now and then. They are usually just dismissed and forgotten. Sometimes though this can escalate and become a major problem. These are called Intrusive Thoughts or Pure O. They are a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
The thoughts can increase until it is difficult to get them out of your head. They cause lots of distress and it can feel like you are losing control of your mind. Due to the content of the thoughts people can become convinced that they are mad or bad in some way. They feel they have to get rid of the thoughts, that if they don't they will act on them or they will come true.
Common intrusive thoughts/images:
Violence towards others
Sexually explicit thoughts
Fear of saying /shouting out something embarrassing
Religious blasphemous thoughts
Dealing with them
Accept your thoughts and don't fight them - treat them as boring or ridiculous
Try not to suppress or stop your thoughts as this just brings them back, if you try not to think of a white bear it is all you will do!
Everyone has intrusive thoughts
They are not dangerous
Thoughts are not facts
You don't have to believe your thoughts
Just notice them and let them go
CBT treatment also includes using an Exposure program to gradually desensitize you to these thoughts.
In summary, intrusive thoughts can be upsetting but you can change how you react to them. As you learn to see their intrusive thoughts as less important, the frequency and intensity of these thoughts can greatly diminish.
Simon - Youth worker
Simon started to get intrusive thoughts about harming people. he tried to get rid of them but the harder he tried the worse they became. He started to believe that he must be bad for having them and he was terrified that he would act on them. He found it difficult to be around people s it would trigger more thoughts. It then got worse when the thoughts involved children.
"In therapy I learnt that intrusive thoughts are normal and not dangerous. I learnt how to confront them and eventually accept them. The thoughts faded and they stopped causing me distress. I was able to get back control of my thinking and my life.
Thank you so much"