Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts: A CBT-Based Guide to Getting Over Frightening, Obsessive, or Disturbing Thoughts by Sally M. WinstonYou are not your thoughts! In this powerful book, two anxiety experts offer proven-effective cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) skills to help you get unstuck from disturbing thoughts, overcome the shame these thoughts can bring, and reduce your anxiety.
If you suffer from unwanted, intrusive, frightening, or even disturbing thoughts, you might worry about what these thoughts mean about you. Thoughts can seem like messages—are they trying to tell you something? But the truth is that they are just thoughts, and don’t necessarily mean anything. Sane and good people have them. If you are someone who is plagued by thoughts you don’t want—thoughts that scare you, or thoughts you can’t tell anyone about—this book may change your life.
In this compassionate guide, you’ll discover the different kinds of disturbing thoughts, myths that surround your thoughts, and how your brain has a tendency to get “stuck” in a cycle of unwanted rumination. You’ll also learn why common techniques to get rid of these thoughts can backfire. And finally, you’ll learn powerful cognitive behavioral skills to help you cope with and move beyond your thoughts, so you can focus on living the life you want. Your thoughts will still occur, but you will be better able to cope with them—without dread, guilt, or shame.
If you have unwanted thoughts, you should remember that you aren’t alone. In fact, there are millions of people just like you—good people who have awful thoughts, gentle people with violent thoughts, and sane people with “crazy” thoughts. This book will show you how to move past your thoughts so you can reclaim your life!
How to Stop Obsessive Thoughts and Anxiety
Persistent and negative thoughts are one of the most common signs of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety makes it nearly impossible to stop focusing on things that you don't want to think about. These thoughts are rarely positive, often related to your fears or distressing emotions, and in many cases, the existence of the thought causes further anxiety and often leads to more obsessions. Obsessive thoughts are the hallmark of obsessive compulsive disorder, but there are types of "obsessive" thoughts that are present in a variety of anxiety disorders that won't necessarily cause a diagnosis of OCD. Below, we'll look at examples of these obsessive thoughts and how they affect you. The idea of "obsession" is that you cannot focus on anything other than a specific issue or a few issues , and no matter how hard you try you cannot distract yourself. For example, your first crush back in high school may have led to obsessive thoughts at the time, if their affection was all you could think about.
Obsessive thinking is an inability to gain control over recurrent, distressing thoughts and images. The process may be mildly distracting, or utterly absorbing. Obsessive thoughts and images are embedded in a complex network of feelings, sensations, and often, behavioral routines. Brain imaging studies indicate that obsessive thinking is associated with a neurological dysfunction of unknown cause that forces thoughts into repetitive loops. While some people find themselves obsessing for the first time, others may have had multiple episodes, the specific content changing over time. Obsessive thinking can be like a hamster wheel, as one hamster gets off, another takes its place, and the wheel keeps spinning. Obsessive thinking can be adaptive, when it is directed toward healthy goals and real problems with achievable solutions.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be a difficult, confusing experience. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder bedevils millions of people with repetitive thoughts and rituals. It's the ultimate doubter's disease. Overcoming OCD will require you to work differently with uncertainty and doubts. Like all anxiety disorders, OCD works by tricking you. You need to understand how this trick works if you're going to overcome OCD. Here's how it works.
The OCD Trick
Soon the thought pops back into my mind. I open the Talkspace app on my phone. I launch into a full-blown panic, which eventually proves to be unfounded when my therapist messages me as usual the next morning. Does this anecdote sound familiar? These types of thoughts are unhelpful at best, and debilitating at worst.
OCD only reports on feared consequences that are important to a person. What if I lose control and harm my children or students. What I tell them is that somewhere within an obsession is the flip side of a core value. If OCD taunts you with images and thoughts about offending god, then religion must be important to you. If OCD reviews all the ways your family could be hurt, then your family is clearly one of your top priorities. There is checklist of common intrusive thoughts that I find helpful to share with my patients.