Unwanted intrusive thoughts are associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and anxiety. It is estimated that as many as one in fifty adults suffers some of these symptoms at some time in their lives. These thoughts may range from fear of hurting oneself or others, to saying some outrageous or inappropriate thing ,or acting out sexually in a way completely outside of our beliefs and practices. It is not uncommon for these thoughts to be a part of post partum depression in women who fear causing harm to a newborn child. Sometimes the thoughts are accompanied by feelings of shame and guilt, and the sufferer keeps them all inside, afraid to tell another human what they are struggling with.
Ironically, part of the treatment is to do the very thing most feared—disclose to a safe person the nature of the thoughts as the first step in disarming them and reminding ourselves that our thoughts are not the same as our intent and our behaviors. Intrusive thoughts related to OCD are of imagined catastrophies whereas those related to PTSD often focus on real events that replay and replay in the mind.
It can be helpful to sort out these thoughts with a mental health practitioner to avoid developing compulsions, rituals or dysfunctional ways to decrease the discomfort of the unwanted thoughts. Desensitization can be far more effective in learning to acknowledge the fear instead of denying it, which will strengthen rather than diminish it. Reframing these troublesome thoughts in cognitive behavioral therapy for what they are—outliers in our minds—can gradually reduce the anxiety and fear of having them. In persistent and severe cases, medication can be a support in dealing with intrusive thoughts, The important thing is to break their hold by reaching out for help.