Intrusive thoughts, what are they? Are they alters crying out for attention or creations of our brain because of cross-wiring?
Intrusive thoughts are something all humans experience, but when coupled with a mental health condition, they can quickly become deadly.
So, let’s examine together what these crappy things are, their causes and some possible ways to control them.
What are Intrusive Thoughts?
According to a post by North Point Recovery, below is a list of some common intrusive thoughts:
- Fear based thought that you might do something inappropriate or embarrassing.
- Fear based thought that you’ve got a disease with no basis to support it.
- Flashback to unpleasant things from your past.
- Inappropriate thoughts or images of sex.
- Thoughts of committing illegal or violent acts.
- A thought that if you don’t do something, you might ruin your luck.
- Thoughts of suicide
Another good definition of intrusive thoughts comes from the Anxiety and Depression Society for America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to “the prevention, treatment, and cure of anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive, and trauma-related disorders through education, practice, and research.”
There I found the following definition of intrusive thoughts:
“Unwanted intrusive thoughts are stuck thoughts that cause great distress. They seem to come from out of nowhere, arrive with a whoosh, and cause a great deal of anxiety. The content of unwanted intrusive thoughts often focuses on sexual or violent or socially unacceptable images.”
Intrusive thoughts accompany many mental health concerns including but only people with anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, and of course, dissociative identity disorder (DID).
My intrusive thoughts are not necessarily coming from a part in my dissociative system. They can also come from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is what I have been experiencing this week. I have a rather rare form of SAD. It affects me in the fall and the spring.
These thoughts begin suddenly and sometimes I’m not aware they have begun. I think thoughts about being a failure, fear, and suicide.
Right now, my intrusive thoughts seem to be worse because of the political and social climate of the United States. I feel a deep-seated fear and dread that we are all going to die. I can’t shake it and the suicidal thoughts emerge saying I should end my life before someone else takes it. Sigh.
Trying to Make Sense of Intrusive Thoughts
There are many questions researchers have been asking to understand what is going on in the brain with intrusive thoughts.
While we already know that all mental illnesses are types of dysfunction in the human brain, we are just beginning to realize that some are genetic, such as schizophrenia, while others happen due to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
An interview with Dr. Steven Phillipson published on the website Intrusive Thoughts.org, the doctor speaks on the subject of the neuroscience of intrusive thoughts.
The first statement he makes in this interview is that the causes of intrusive thoughts in the human brain are not clear, but he believes the amygdala is involved.
The amygdala is a small portion of the primitive brain responsible for hunger, sleep cycles and responding quickly to emergencies. It is the belief of Dr. Phillipson that the amygdala is misfiring and sending danger signals to the thinking portion of the brain that is unnecessary and distressing.
For example, the horrible feeling that something bad is going to happen any minute now. The dread, the fear, and the thoughts are all signals coming from the amygdala.
What to Do About It?
In the emotional state, I am now, this is a hard question for me to answer. The hopelessness I am feeling seems to block out logical thinking.
However, I’ll tell you what I found other people do to relieve themselves of intrusive thoughts. Maybe I’ll try them myself.
There are treatments that can help including:
- One-on-One Psychotherapy
- Group Therapy
- Medications that regulate serotonin
- Therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
There are suggestions on how to defeat intrusive thoughts.
Acceptance. Acceptance means acknowledging intrusive thoughts as just that, thoughts. Acceptance also means not trying to figure out the thoughts or worrying that you might carry them out. By accepting intrusive thoughts, they lose the power to make you fearful and anxious.
Stop Dreading Intrusive Thoughts. This includes not resisting intrusive thoughts but using self-talk and telling yourself that everything is okay. In doing so, the thoughts lose their power to terrify you.
Recognizing the Source of Intrusive Thoughts. Try to think about where intrusive thoughts begin. The thoughts that are plaguing you aren’t coming from a reliable source, but rather from your amygdala misfiring and flooding you with fight/flight/freeze hormones.
There are two reasons I decided to write this piece.
One. I wanted you to see that although I may seem like I have progressed very far in my healing (and I have), that doesn’t mean I don’t have problems. DID isn’t something you ever totally recover from. It is a lifelong disorder that I have learned for the most part to manage.
Two. I am only human. I come to you from that perspective. Never set me up on a pedestal because I am not like Wonder Woman able to defeat my foes by deflecting bullets. Instead, those bullets, (life events, illness, intrusive thoughts), penetrate deeply into my mind and body.
I am mortal and some days can’t get my act together.
If you are like me, intrusive thoughts have always been part of my diagnosis. Not only do I have to deal with the thoughts, emotions, and feelings of my alters, but the constant misfiring of my brain.
Although I well-understand the cause of these thoughts of self-destruction and terror, I am having a hard time shaking them.
However, I will keep fighting. I’m not sure right now why I will (that’s the depression speaking), but I know I will. I guess that’s because I’m a survivor, that’s what I do.
I’m satisfied and proud of the things I did – even the bumps and the bruises that I’ve had on the way. You fall down, you get up, you brush yourself off and you keep going. And that’s what we’re doing. ~ Gucci Mane
One thing I’ve come to learn about myself is that I have to keep going.~ Andrew Mason
I’ve always heard that the reason you fall is to get back up and keep going. So when that happens, or life throws you bad breaks or curves or deals you the wrong hand, all I’ve ever known is to keep going. ~ Gary Rossington