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Can intrusive thoughts be stopped & not just managed?

(8 Posts)
Petallic Mon 18-Aug-14 23:36:53

I have unpleasant intrusive thoughts very regularly - more than I could count every day. Some cause me more distress than others but I manage it ok. Eg avoiding certain places or actions for example.

I know there's forms of therapy that can use to help me manage them but is there anything that can just stop them? I can and do live with them but it's tiring and unpleasant. Anyone got rid of theirs successfully?

temporaryusername Tue 19-Aug-14 00:16:35

I don't think you can just 'stop' them, but the therapy should help to do reduce them greatly if done properly. I am having CBT and doing that well to be honest but plodding on.

The irony is that the treatment is to seek out the thoughts. The reason they keep coming into your/my heads is that we respond to them by avoiding or maybe trying to neutralize them (I don't know if you do that but avoidance is a response in itself, as is trying to get rid of them). That response flags them up as something important and actually tells our brain to engage with them rather than let them pass. Then you dread the thought coming back, which means that due to that fear the thoughts remain in your consciousness and come back. It is partly the old classic of trying not to think of a pink elephant for the next two minutes. Do not let the words pink elephant enter your head, starting now...'argh, pink elephant, pink elephant....something else, yes I can do it....pink elephant.'.

So therapy might involve writing down your thoughts and deliberately setting aside a time every day to read them over and over. Spending 30 mins at a time deliberately focusing on the thoughts. It is a nightmarish prospect, particularly if you feel bad things will happen if you don't respond in some way to neutralise or escape them. Deliberately going to the places/doing the actions you have been avoiding. The theory (and it has worked for many apparently) is that this breaks the dynamic of seeing the thoughts as something we have to avoid, and gradually they will then stop entering your head as they are no longer seen as important. They will come sometimes but with less distress, apparently, and in fact everyone has intrusive thoughts to a small extent.

Depending on your symptoms and what other issues you do or don't have there might be other kinds of therapy or tactics that would help more, so I'm not saying the above is the only way. I just don't know about any others but perhaps someone else will. If you have PTSD the treatment might be different. I wouldn't wade into exposing yourself to the thoughts without getting some advice first, you may well need to do some preparatory stuff first. I wouldn't want you to traumatize yourself further, I'm just hinting at what they might do. Sorry if you already know all this.

I think there is a book about this called 'The Imp of the Mind' but I haven't read it.

temporaryusername Tue 19-Aug-14 00:17:17

not doing it well I mean sad

Sorry for long post.

Petallic Tue 19-Aug-14 12:13:33

Thanks for taking the time to explain it so well. I don't know whether to pursue a therapy option - it sounds a very big commitment and as I have both a traumatic cause to some of my thoughts and I think also just general anxiety causing the rest, so it feels a mammoth task to try and get rid of what are ultimately just thoughts.

Last night I was really fed up because I had them a lot - all caused by picking up a knife outside of the kitchen (how daft !) and I knew from experience it would also be hours before I dropped off to sleep.

temporaryusername Tue 19-Aug-14 12:51:02

Have you had any kind of diagnosis or treatment in the past for anxiety/mh issues?

VirtualPointyHat Tue 19-Aug-14 13:02:58

I found schema therapy very helpful as it groups intrrusive thoughts into classes with the same root cause, so they can be dealt with in turn.

Once you start to crack one lot the subsequent ones are much easier

Petallic Tue 19-Aug-14 13:06:47

I had a pysch report a very long time ago for another purpose that suggested possible PTSD and generalised anxiety although I didn't pursue any MH treatment at that time beyond antidepressants. I've since developed some additional ones since having children but no not seen a dr recently - I do a very good job of outwardly managing :-)

temporaryusername Tue 19-Aug-14 14:44:24

That sounds very interesting Virtual, I don't know anything about that.

Petallic I only ask because I was wondering whether you feel things might get worse or ease off. If you think you're heading for a bad patch I would go sooner rather than later because there is a wait for treatment and the earlier you can try and turn these things around the better. Don't wait for it to get completely unmanageable.

Also I asked since intrusive thoughts are a big feature of OCD and I know a bit about treatment for that, but not about PTSD so I didn't want to give the wrong advice.

Do you have reservations about seeking therapy or taking meds again, if you're not still on them? I seem to remember Sertraline is good for PTSD, but not sure.

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