Intrusive Thoughts


Intrusive Thoughts Full Info

What are intrusive thoughts?


Intrusive thoughts are unwelcome involuntary thoughts, images, or unpleasant ideas. A study found that 94% of people have intrusive thoughts, this shows how normal it is to have intrusive thoughts but the majority of people are able to bat them way as the mental junk that they are. However the people unable to dismiss them may lead the intrusive thoughts to become an obsession, upsetting or distressing. This causes the intrusive thoughts to become paralyzing, severe, and the thoughts to be constantly present


Intrusive thoughts, urges, and images are of inappropriate things at inappropriate times, and generally range around violence or sex to religious blasphemy.


A person suffering from unmanageable intrusive thoughts can have significantly variable symptoms because each sub-type of intrusive thought/obsession e.g. POCD (pedophile OCD), typically has its own unique array of triggers. Regardless of which triggers are present, most intrusive thinking causes distress, anxiety, short term memory loss from the stress and in severe cases, panic attacks


Typically, without knowing that the individual has OCD, they will try everything possible to avoid these overwhelming thoughts. Feelings of attraction or what some in the community call 'False Attraction' commonly happen, as do physical feelings of arousal. This all comes down to focusing so much on the thoughts, looking for anything that could be seen as attractive, comparing anything to seek proof these thoughts are true.


With all this checking at every little detail, similarities are easily found and wrongly seen as proof these thoughts mean something. Thinking of something sexually will most often create a sense of attraction or arousal based on the fact it being sexual. The point here is that people who suffer with intrusive thoughts would never want to act on the thoughts for pleasure and are only thinking about it to either test themselves or is just a random thought.

Other Intrusive thought/obsession symptoms:

  • Compulsively repeating a ritual to reduce their anxiety

  • Checking oneself or others in order to ensure no harm has been done

  • Ruminating (continually thinking about the intrusive thoughts)

  • Seeking reassurance from others

  • Intense need to perform a task “just right”

  • Avoiding objects, places, or people that can trigger one’s intrusive thoughts


Links with mental health conditions

When such thoughts are associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depressionbody dysmorphic disorder (BDD), and sometimes attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the thoughts may become paralyzing, anxiety-provoking, or persistent. Intrusive thoughts may also be associated with episodic memory, unwanted worries or memories from OCD, post traumatic stress disorder, other anxiety disorderseating disorders, or psychosis

When intrusive thoughts occur with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), patients are less able to ignore the unpleasant thoughts and may pay undue attention to them, causing the thoughts to become more frequent and distressing. Distinguishing them from normal intrusive thoughts experienced by many people, the intrusive thoughts associated with OCD may be anxiety provoking, irrepressible, and persistent.

Some women may develop symptoms of OCD during pregnancy or the postpartum period. Unwanted thoughts by mothers about harming infants are common in postpartum depression

What causes intrusive thoughts?

Intrusive thoughts can just happen randomly, professionals are not sure yet why this happens. Some thoughts wander into your brain and wander back out again bit if you over focus on them they can become intrusive or intrusive thoughts appear and its down to the person if they are able to easily push the thought away or be negatively affected by it.

Stress can cause these intrusive thoughts to appear more and affect you more but if they affecting you considerably, its likely they are being caused by a underlying mental health condition. These thoughts are nothing to be ashamed of, but they are a reason to seek a diagnosis and treatment.

How do intrusive thoughts get worse?

How people react to intrusive thoughts may determine whether these thoughts will become severe, turn into obsessions, or require treatment. Intrusive thoughts can occur with or without compulsions. Carrying out the compulsion reduces the anxiety, but makes the urge to perform the compulsion stronger each time it recurs, reinforcing the intrusive thoughts.


According to professionals, suppressing the thoughts only makes them stronger, and recognizing that bad thoughts do not signify that one is truly evil is one of the steps to overcoming them. There is evidence of the benefit of acceptance as an alternative to suppression of intrusive thoughts. A study showed that those instructed to suppress intrusive thoughts experienced more distress after suppression, while patients instructed to accept the bad thoughts experienced decreased discomfort.


These results may be related to underlying cognitive processes involved in OCD. However, accepting the thoughts can be more difficult for persons with OCD. The "pathological doubt" that accompanies OCD can make it harder for a person with OCD to distinguish "normal" intrusive thoughts as experienced by most people, causing them to "suffer in silence, feeling too embarrassed or worried that they will be thought crazy"


Acting on intrusive thoughts

The possibility that most patients suffering from intrusive thoughts will ever act on those thoughts is low. Patients who are experiencing intense guiltanxietyshame, and upset over these thoughts are different from those who actually act on them. The history of violent crime is dominated by those who feel no guilt or remorse; the very fact that someone is tormented by intrusive thoughts and has never acted on them before is an excellent predictor that they will not act upon the thoughts.


Patients who are not troubled or shamed by their thoughts, do not find them distasteful, or who have actually taken action, might need to have more serious conditions such as psychosis or potentially criminal behaviors ruled out. According to professionals, a patient should be concerned that intrusive thoughts are dangerous if the person does not feel upset by the thoughts, or rather finds them pleasurable; has ever acted on violent or sexual thoughts or urges; hears voices or sees things that others do not see; or feels uncontrollable irresistible anger.

Although acting out on intrusive thoughts is low, it is usually due to compulsive behavior of testing to see if there is truth within the thoughts. This can happen when someone with intrusive thoughts has become immensely consumed within the obsession, compulsion cycle of OCD and has becoming severely distressed. There have been reports from professionals, where patients have test if they are gay by having sex with a man or a parent touches the genitals of their child to see if they would do anything. This only causes further extreme distress, with these actions giving the sufferer added proof they are the intrusive thoughts they fear they are. This is confirmed by ocd charities like OCD Action and written in the official N.I.C.E Guidelines on how to diagnose OCD.

Sadly its not uncommon for people with intrusive thoughts, to have unfair and further debilitating situations in their lives which can prevent sufferers to seek help in the first place. This can include stigma and abuse from people with no knowledge of intrusive thoughts who are quick to jump to conclusions. Social services can also get involved if their are children around the unwell person. This can causes chaos and extreme suffering, sadly it seems services are not up to date with mental health conditions and deem people with intrusive thoughts as potential risks. This is why it is so important to get help before intrusive thoughts get severe.


Intrusive thoughts can become focused on a particular topic such as sexual obsessions and Religious thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are commonly categorized into sub types among the OCD community to help differentiate between them e.g. POCD (Pedophile OCD), HOCD (Homosexual OCD) and ROCD (Religious OCD).

This site has a page for a full A-Z list of intrusive thought OCD sub types with descriptions for each one. Just because you or someone else has intrusive thoughts doesn't mean you have OCD but this naming of the types of thoughts you can get, can help you find specific information or other sufferers on the internet.

This is a up to date gathering of information found on the internet from reliable sources such as Wikipedia, professional health websites such as N.I.C.E, OCD charities websites and speaking to them and my own over 14 years of experiences suffering with intrusive thoughts. 

This article will be updated whenever new information is found that could improve it. 

Thanks for reading,