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Intrusive anxious thoughts(12 Posts)
I'm having CBT at the moment. One of the things it's doing is to highlight how often my mind is filled with intrusive, anxious, "what if?" thoughts.
I notice it most when I'm walking somewhere by myself. The thoughts will start up like, "What if that car mounts the pavement and hits you? What if that van is stopped there to abduct people? What if that lorry doesn't stop at the crossing, but squashes you? What if you stumble onto the road?"
The thoughts are usually accompanied by graphic visual images too, so it's like a horror film in my mind as I walk along.
Is there anything I can do to work out why I'm getting these? The CBT is focussing more on stopping them, not the triggers. But I just don't know why it's happening.
I'm 48. Not in the menopause yet. I suffered from depression in my 20s/30s but I'm not depressed. Just walking around with a snuff movie playing in my head.
CBT doesn’t work to stop the thoughts, more your relationship with them. I have OCD which is characterised by awful intrusive thoughts. My CBT focussed on accepting I get these thoughts but not reacting the same way I used to. There’s are other forms to CBT than just CBT, acceptance and commitment therapy and exposure and response prevention. Talk things over with your psychologist
It’s normal to get intrusive thoughts. What’s important is the meaning we put on them. If we just notice them and think “oh there’s that x thought again” they don’t cause any problems. If we start thinking that they have any significance e.g. that we are a bad person, then they can definitely cause problems. So - just notice them without attaching any significance. They are just electrical noise in your brain. Definitely don’t try to stop them - that causes you to have them more (try to stop yourself thinking of pink elephants and see what happens!) The CBT will be aiming to change the meaning you give to the thoughts, not to stop them.
Thank you, @Breakfastat and @Egghead68. Sorry to hear you get these too. Does everyone? I can't believe the people I see on the street are being plagued by these non-stop disaster films in their minds!
I don't feel they have any significance to me. I don't feel I'm a bad person. I just wish they'd stop, as it's really stressful. I also had a horrible, full-blown panic attack a couple of years ago which was awful (while I was walking along the street, funnily enough) so I'm always scared that'll happen again. I'm scared I'll think these thoughts so much that it'll build up into another attack.
Ugh. Thanks again! It's reassuring to know I'm not alone.
Who can tell if everyone gets them. When they do surveys though they find they are extremely common. Most people don’t give them a second thought. You are getting a lot of them because you are trying to stop them (like with the pink elephants).Don’t try to stop them and rather than thinking the thoughts are terrible/upsetting/making life unbearable etc. just think of them as meaningless electrical noise in your brain that you can let float away like leaves on a stream. The CBT should help. Good luck.
Here’s one survey:
Yep every single person in the world has intrusive thoughts. You can also have good ones, or neutral ones. For example it could suddenly pop in to your head that it’s your Nieces or mums or cousins birthday next week and you must get her a present. That’s an intrusive thought.
Unfortunately trying to stop the thoughts won’t stop the thoughts. You need to accept that they are there and try to think differently about them. There’s a few analogies: the thoughts are trains going through a station, ones you aren’t getting on that you are just watching pass through, or my personal favourite, they are like bubbles in a champagne glass, all continuously floating up the glass
Anxiety/intrusive thoughts are very common during peri menopause, which you are probably in the midst of. I suffered from this and HRT stopped it completely.
When I went through a period of intrusive thoughts I had CBT but also the doctor told me to do a workbook called Mind Over Mood (second edition) I got it on amazon, it was brilliant for me.
Yes everyone gets them. These thoughts are perfectly normal.
You say they don't have significance for you and they don't make you them you are a bad person, but you then say the thoughts are making you stressed so they must be significant in some way - the thoughts are causing an emotional reaction of stress.
You can't stop the thoughts. Try not to think about elephants and you will not be able to stop thinking about them! In fact, trying to stop thinking about something will only make you think about it more! Which is probably why you're getting the thoughts all the time rather than occasionally.
You can't stop the thoughts but you can work on not having the emotional reaction though. Similarly to thoughts, you can't stop the feeling of anxiety by fighting it and fighting the anxiety will only make it worse.
There are two tools that work really well. Firstly diffuse the power behind the thought. It's just a thought. A thought doesn't mean anything, just because you think something doesn't mean it will happen and it doesn't mean you're a bad person. It's just a thought, nothing more.
2. Focus on breathing. If I have intrusive thoughts or overwhelming emotion I just focus on my breathing for a while. Every time your mind goes off bring it back to your breath. If you don't like focussing in your breath, think about your feet. How are your feet feeling right now?
Anxiety can't be attacked face on. You need to attack from the side, when it's not looking!
Maybe ask your GP about an NHS mindfulness course? It was life changing and I'd had a lot of CBT before which was helpful but didn't knock it on the head. The mindfulness really made a huge difference to me managing my anxiety and depression.
THANK YOU! Soe really interesting thoughts here.
The thoughts do affect me in that I'm on constant alert. That's what it feels like; like my internal "danger warning system" is stuck on Defcon One. It's always about a potential threat or danger. "That car might hit you" or "You might get mugged".
Writing that down, it sounds absolutely batshit.
I'm 100% willing to believe this is hormonal/perimenopausal. It gets worse before my period.
When things were really bad, I couldn't do journeys on the motorway (as a passenger) because I had a kind of vertigo thing going on where I was scared I'd jump out of the car. I didn't want to, and I never have, but I was scared there was nothing actually to stop me doing it. Like it was only my free will that prevented my doing it, if you know what I mean?
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