Managing intrusive thoughts
Have you ever had a horrible thought come to mind that just will not leave you alone? Like imagining a car accident then find yourself following that thought all the way through the accident, rescue and on to potential hospital treatment or worse, death? Or perhaps you imagined something bad happening to a loved one?
These sorts of thoughts are called “intrusive thoughts” and some people never have them, others deal with them daily. They can be one of the symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), but not always.
Whether you have them occasionally or regularly, they can be very distressing indeed. Intrusive thoughts are linked to anxiety as you might expect, with the feelings that arise from them. But unlike the coping strategies for anxiety, it isn’t recommended to try to stop these thoughts while you are having them. Instead, it has been found that rationalising the thought at the time of having it i.e. “A car accident is unlikely because I have been driving for X amount of years and only ever had a minor bump” (replace example information with your known track record). Or "The scenario I imagined my loved one in is highly unlikely because of X, Y and Z".
Another way to address them is by writing them down and then reading them out loud to yourself. What this does, for the most part, is it gives your brain or subconscious, the thought back through the auditory system. This allows the thought to be processed in a different way, allowing the subconscious to rationalise itself. By keeping track of your thought’s, you will be able to look at patterns that may cause them, such as, driving passed the place you had that bump in the past. When you know where and why these thoughts are triggered you have something concrete to address. A hypnotherapist will be able to unpick these events and help you manage them.
OCD intrusive thoughts are slightly different in nature and may need medication and psychotherapy to address it. It is worth following through on the above steps to see if they can be managed, but if keeping track of them doesn’t help you should visit your GP to discuss the possibility of an OCD diagnosis.
For those who have seen a pattern and have found that the above steps have helped, perhaps the most effective way would be to address the thought at its root. By using hypnotherapy and the deeply relaxed state induced, you and your therapist can explore where the thoughts came from. By using hypnotherapy your therapist is calling forward the part of your brain that protects you. Furthermore, by questioning its use of intrusive thoughts your therapist can help you switch them off or at least understand why they are happening.
Sometimes the recognition of the root cause is enough to slow or even prevent further intrusive thoughts.