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The brain is amazing, yet we know so little about how it works. There is nothing in the body more misunderstood than the mind. Billions of neurons and synapses processing serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and many other chemicals create what we know as THOUGHT. In a millisecond, our mind can consume information and come up with an interpretation. It is easy to take this process for granted. We expect that when we have a thought it makes sense and even has purpose. We hope that our thoughts all have purpose and mean something, but what if they did not. Those struggling with OCD or Anxiety Spectrum Disorders have thoughts that do not make sense and are intrusive in nature. Not only do they not make sense, they go contrary to what one values. OCD sufferers have confusion by where these thoughts originated. When this happens, the internal emotions go wild. The sympathetic nervous system activates causing a fight or flight response. This only reinforces the reaction to the thought. This response makes them wonder where these thoughts came from. OCD sufferers hate these thoughts. They would do anything not to have them. These “intrusive thoughts” over time can become the bane of their existence. They begin avoiding situations, people or even events to limit the possibility of the intrusive thoughts coming into their mind. Unfortunately, when one says, “don’t think of this or that”, you are more likely to focus on those thoughts.

 

Intrusive thoughts are that…Intrusive. They come and go when they want. They have no respect for anything or any one. These thoughts are putrid and never are positive. Nothing good comes from these thoughts. They do not make a person smarter nor does it change the future in a positive way. Intrusive thoughts have the ability to steal away life. Intrusive thoughts and the meaning ones places on them can consume an OCD sufferer. One misses experiences that actually matter.

 

Every person on this planet has intrusive thoughts. I may have once thought I could run my self or another person off the road or I may have thought I want to hurt someone. The intrusive thought could also be that I might have hit someone, left a door unlocked, may not have cleaned myself well enough, did not fully tell the truth, had a inappropriate sexual thought or a thousand other thoughts that I might not like. However, these thoughts will cause no level of distress for me. Why should they? There is no reaction, my mind moves on with little to no notice of the thought. Those with OCD and a variety of anxiety disorders will have a completely different experience. A normal “intrusive thought” will spike anxiety in an OCD sufferer, making the thought mean something. Intrusive thoughts cause so much grief that an OCD sufferer will do anything to avoid the horrible thoughts that invade the mind.

 

Common mistakes with intrusive thoughts are the following:

  • Trying to figure out what the intrusive thoughts mean
  • Mentally reviewing through the intrusive thought to find certainty in the situation
  • Seeking reassurance from others to help confirm you are a good person
  • Trying to logic yourself better
  • Avoiding situations to lessen the possibility of the thought coming back
  • Holding everything in and keeping the thoughts a secret

 

Exposure and response prevention therapy is extremely successful with intrusive thoughts. The goal is not to make the thoughts go away. The goal is to face them so the thoughts lose their value. Thoughts are just that, thoughts. Feelings are what make them into more. When an OCD sufferer begins to face intrusive thoughts, they will see, once you face them, you were never at risk.


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