Mental Health Series: Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive Thoughts

Most people experience intrusive thoughts to some extent in their lives – they can start with a catchy song or a philosophical question that you can’t stop thinking about. Your mind is active all day long and thoughts pass through continually. However, if the thoughts are persisting and becoming distressing to the person, they can pose a serious risk to mental wellbeing.

Intrusive thoughts tend to be accelerated by stressful situations. For example, if you have too much work and not enough time to do it, then you might experience unwanted thoughts. This can cause anxiety.

Here are some strategies that seemed to have helped people in the past:

1. Reframing the thoughts: 

  • Visualise the thoughts in a pleasant physical environment.
  • Use humour to make the thoughts less frightening.

2. Acceptance:

  • Try not to push the thought away. Try to accept it as what it is: Just a thought. It has no influence or power over your actions.
  • Remind yourself that thoughts are often based on imagination rather than truth.

3. Reducing the size of the thoughts:

  • Everyone has unpleasant thoughts once in a while. Try not to attach too much importance to yours.
  • Try to put them in comparison to other, more important things in your life.


  • Create a list of positive memories and thoughts. Remind yourself of these and read over them when experiencing distressing thoughts.
  • Find ways to create humorous situations from your intrusive thoughts. This could include drawing them or writing it down. Try to remember this when you have an intrusive thought.
  • Talk about things which make you feel stressed and work out ways to reduce these stresses.

Further reading:


Free, immediate help for emergencies:

Mind Mental Health Charity – Phone, email or text, Mon – Fr

Samaritans Helpline – Phone or email, 24/7

Mental Health Series: Insomnia Autism Anglia | Life Chances Conference