Intrusive thoughts are thoughts that you experience that are unwanted. Intrusive thoughts can be persistent and distressing, and they can interfere with daily life, especially if you have depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other mental health concerns. These thoughts are not your fault, even if they are triggering and can hurt your mental health. In this article, we will bust some of the most common myths about intrusive thoughts.
Myth 1: You Control Your Thoughts
Most of your thoughts are not under your conscious control. This myth leads to the common suggestion to simply “think happy thoughts” instead of negative ones. While you can actively focus on positive thoughts to distract yourself from negative ones, that is not going to keep these unwanted thoughts away permanently. In fact, some research has indicated that the more distressing a thought is, the stronger it will come back after you actively try to suppress it.
Myth 2: Your Unconscious Mind Can Affect Your Actions
Analyzing your dreams and Freudian slips may be a fun and common way to try to understand the complex workings of the unconscious mind. However, just because you have a weird dream where you do something that you would not normally do does not mean you actually want to do that thing. Having a random stray thought about pocketing an item instead of paying for it does not mean you want to be a thief. A moment of doubt is not a sign that you are ignoring an unconscious desire.
Myth 3: Your Thoughts Are Your Character
Your thoughts have nothing to do with who you are as a person. Your character is what you choose to do and how you live your life. Everyone has random thoughts that pass through their minds that they do not approve of. A person’s character is about their choices in life, not every random thought that pops into their head.
Myth 3.5: Your Thoughts Are Your Inner Self
This is one of those myths about intrusive thoughts that can be pretty harmful to mental health. Your mind is not always a reflection of your true thoughts and feelings. Everyone has random weird, crazy, and aggressive thoughts at some point, but that does not mean that is who they are as a person. You may worry about these thoughts, thinking that they are who you truly are, but these are just intrusive thoughts that do not reflect who you are.
Myth 4: Thinking Something Can Make It Happen
When you really want something to happen, you may spend a lot of time thinking about it in hopes that you can make it happen. However, a thought is not a warning or prediction that something horrible is going to happen. For example, you might have the intrusive thought that you will get into a car accident if you leave the house today, but that does not mean that it is going to happen. Your thoughts cannot make a car accident, plane crash, or disaster strike.
Myth 4.5: Thinking Something Won’t Make It Happen
The exact opposite of Myth 4 is also true. You might worry about something happening to someone, but that is not going to protect them. Instead, it will only train your brain to sit in a cycle of worry, which can be harmful to your mental health.
Myth 5: Everything Thought is Worth Thinking About
This myth is completely untrue. Different types of thoughts will randomly pop into your head, but they are not always worth thinking about or dwelling on. The problem with this myth is that when an intrusive thought pops into your head, you are going to think it deserves to be thought, and you give it attention it does not deserve.
Myth 6: Having Intrusive Thoughts Means You’re Sick
Everyone has weird intrusive thoughts at some point in their life. Whether it is your parents, friends, doctors, or teachers, they all have weird intrusive thoughts, and that does not mean that they are sick or something is wrong with them. There is nothing wrong with you for having intrusive thoughts of your own.
Myth 7: Repeating Thoughts Are Important
Just because a thought pops into your head multiple times does not mean that it is important. Intrusive thoughts especially can repeat, and giving them attention can make them repeat even more. Actively ignoring a thought can also make it repeat more, like when you tell yourself not to itch your nose, and then that is all you can think about.
We hope busting these seven myths about intrusive thoughts can help you in life. If you need more help with your depression or anxiety, download Rootd today. The app can help you get through panic attacks and give you coping strategies for coping with anxiety.