In the normal cognitive functioning of an individual, one thought emerges on average every second. In others, thoughts become invasive and obsessive, even pathological.
In individuals with normal cognitive functioning, “one thought emerges on average every second” indicates Catherine Demangeot, therapist and psychotherapist. Certain thoughts can insert themselves into our mind to the point of becoming intrusive and obsessive. to the point of affecting all spheres of daily life. These thoughts are then considered “intrusive”. Where do they come from? How to recognize them? Manage them? What are the treatments to get rid of it?
What are intrusive thoughts?
“Intrusive thoughts are distressing and negative thoughts that creep into our minds and we tend to impose ourselves against our will” underlines Catherine Demangeot. They do not reflect real desires or intentions of the person concerned. “They characterized by an obsessive fixation on a given subject, transforming the normal course of our reflections into a veritable vicious circle. These recurring thoughts can become ruminations” adds the psychotherapist. Having intrusive thoughts does not necessarily mean that you have a mental health problem. “In many cases, they are just a temporary reaction to stressful or distressing situations” reassures the specialist. Before specifying: “Anyone can experience intrusive thoughts from time to time but they become pathological when they are obsessive and significantly impact daily life.“
These intrusive thoughts manifest themselves by their nature obsessive, recurring and distressing. It’s like a song playing on repeat in your head. They appear suddenly, for no apparent reason. “They can give rise to a feeling of being overwhelmed and unable to control his own thoughts” remarks Catherine Demangeot. They can be so invasive that they hinder professional life, emotional and social relationships by causing anxiety and stress. Negative thoughts can disrupt concentration and sleep taking up too much space in your mind. In their extreme form, they are one of the symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Intrusive thoughts include, for example:
► A person has to take a plane and at the airport he thinks: “What if the plane crashed? What if the pilot felt unwell? What if the technicians didn’t check the equipment properly? What if a storm causes an accident?”
► A person who suffered a serious car accident sees, in the form of flashbacks, the moment just before the accident. Even in quiet moments outside of a car, the flashback arises against his will.
What causes intrusive thoughts?
“Some research suggests that brain dysfunctions such as disturbances in neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin) play a role” underlines the psychotherapist. Intrusive thoughts can also result from psychological factors such as traumatic events unresolved (loss, mourning, aggression). They are also more common in people:
- who suffer from anxiety disorders or high stress levels
- suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- who suffer from ADHD
- suffering from schizophrenia
- suffering from mood disorders
The diagnosis can be made by mental health professionals (psychologist or psychiatrist) during clinical consultation often usingrating scales specific. “For example, the Yale-Brown Obsession Compulsive Scale is often used to assess the severity of obsessions in OCD” notes Catherine Demangeot.
There mindfulness meditation, practiced regularly, helps not to cling to thoughts. THE cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT) are also effective, as are physical and artistic activities which distract the mind. “It is crucial to do not confuse thoughts with reality with the help of the practice of let go” defends our expert. In addition, a healthy lifestyle and diet can positively influence the management of these thoughts. “There TRE method (Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises) is another useful approach to reducing mental hyperactivity” adds the psychotherapist. In any case, if intrusive thoughts become disabling on a daily basis, it is important to consult a psychologist or psychiatrist to obtain personalized support.
Thanks to Catherine Demangeot, therapist and psychotherapist.