How to avoid obsessing over disturbing thoughts

How to avoid obsessing over disturbing thoughts
How to avoid obsessing over disturbing thoughts

Disturbing thoughts, also called intrusive thoughts, are widespread and normal in most cases. But disturbing thoughts can also become unsettling and stressful. Some people might obsess over their disturbing thoughts and find it hard not to think about them. These obsessions can lead to more serious psychological problems if left untreated. If you think you have developed an unhealthy obsession because of your disturbing thoughts, you should seek professional help. There are strategies you can put in place to stop obsessing over your disturbing thoughts.


Part 1 of 3: Understanding disturbing thoughts

Stop Obsessing over Disturbing Thoughts Step 1

Step 1. Understand what a disturbing thought is

A disturbing thought is something that pops into your mind from nowhere. Disturbing thoughts can focus on violence, sex, or traumatic events from the past, but they are not limited to these categories. Psychologists call these thoughts intrusive thoughts because they appear in the head, usually without warning and cause distress. Disturbing thoughts can vary from person to person. Here are a few examples.

  • You imagine that you are dropping a baby while you are holding it in your arms. Even if you never do, it's a common intrusive thought.
  • You imagine yourself running over your boss with your car. If your boss has pissed you off, you might find yourself thinking about this stuff even if you never do.
  • You have violent sexual fantasies that turn you on, even though you would never or would not like to be made to you.
  • You relive a disturbing experience, for example a car accident or an assault.
Stop Obsessing over Disturbing Thoughts Step 2

Step 2. Realize that disturbing thoughts are common

Most people have disturbing thoughts, but they can go away by thinking of something else. Even though it is a very common thing, many people get worried and become obsessed with thoughts that they would never put into practice, which causes them a lot of distress. If you feel distressed because of disturbing thoughts, try to remember that you are not alone. Many people have these kinds of thoughts.

Stop Obsessing over Disturbing Thoughts Step 3

Step 3. Realize that they don't make you a bad person

In most cases, a disturbing thought that you would never put into practice is natural, and it doesn't make you a bad person. Often times, these thoughts appear exactly because you don't want to do what you imagine. Sometimes your mind wanders, and you contemplate the worst things that could happen in any given situation.

Part 2 of 3: Examine a disturbing thought

Stop Obsessing over Disturbing Thoughts Step 4

Step 1. Recognize the disturbing thought

Even if your gut reaction is to simply ignore the disturbing thought, that is not a good idea. If you try to ignore the thought or block it, it might come back with greater intensity. By trying to make the disturbing thought go away, you might develop an unhealthy obsession with that thought. Instead of trying to block it, know how to recognize it and examine it.

Identify the content of the disturbing thought. What do you find there and what is the thing that bothers you?

Stop Obsessing over Disturbing Thoughts Step 5

Step 2. Write about your disturbing thoughts

By writing down your disturbing thoughts, you will come to think of them in a different way. In addition, writing down your thoughts allows you to get them out of your head and reduce their frequency. The next time you have a disturbing thought, take a moment to write it down in your journal. As you write about your thought, consider the following questions to help you examine it.

  • What are the things that disturb you about this thought? The fear of putting it into practice? The simple fear of having that thought? Social stigma?
  • How many times a day do you have this thought? Take into account the number of times this thought crosses your mind to become aware of certain patterns, for example the time of the day or the week that this thought occurs.
  • Is there an element that triggers the appearance of thought? Do you still have this disturbing thought after seeing someone or something?
  • What do you do after the thought appears in your mind? Do you keep thinking about it in detail? Do you speak of it? Are you trying to ignore it?
  • Is it the same thought or do you have several different thoughts? Are they similar thoughts?
  • Do you feel anxiety because of the thought itself, or are you worried about your thinking? For example, do you worry about really throwing the baby against the wall or are you just bothered by the thought of having that kind of thought?
  • Do you worry more about the thought or how other people would see you for having that kind of thought? Is it the thought of others knowing that you have that thought and judging you that bothers you more than the thought itself?
  • Do you feel like you "have to" think about it? Some disturbing thoughts might be recurring because you have to act, for example you have to make a decision based on that thought. There may be recurring thoughts due to your anxiety, but there's no need to keep thinking about them.
  • Is there anything you can do to make yourself feel better? In other words, is there anything you can do to change the situation?
  • What are these thoughts causing in you? Use words that describe emotions like angry, sad, excited, etc., to characterize these floating emotions.
  • Do these thoughts bother you personally, or do they bother the people you tell them to?
Stop Obsessing over Disturbing Thoughts Step 6

Step 3. Determine the source of your obsessive thoughts

By trying to trace the source of each thought, you may be able to ease your worries about the disturbing thought. For example, if you constantly imagine someone breaking into your home and assaulting you, try asking yourself when this thought first appeared and why.

Stop Obsessing over Disturbing Thoughts Step 7

Step 4. Identify the role of the media in causing disturbing thoughts

One study has shown that watching the news reporting violent events significantly contributes to acute stress and causes disturbing thoughts to appear more frequently. Ask yourself if you often see violent acts on television.

If you find that you are often exposed to violent news and it contributes to your disturbing thoughts, stop watching or reading the news for a while and focus on positive stories

Stop Obsessing over Disturbing Thoughts Step 8

Step 5. Understand the meaning of your disturbing sexual thoughts

In most cases, disturbing thoughts related to sex mean nothing at all. If you find these thoughts repugnant or if they involve violence or illegal activity, your mind might just be trying to figure these things out.

For example, someone might fantasize about raping someone they can't reach. In the thought process of rape, the person imagining the act might also imagine the harm inflicted on the other. Understanding the pain that this act would cause the other person, the person imagining it should stop thinking about it

Part 3 of 3: Overcome your disturbing thoughts

Stop Obsessing over Disturbing Thoughts Step 9

Step 1. Find yourself a distraction

Once you've taken the time to think about it and review the content of your disturbing thoughts, you should start to move past them. Try several of the following positive activities to distract yourself.

  • Get some exercise. It can help you release tension and anxiety.
  • Pick a hobby to keep your mind and body occupied.
  • Go out with friends.
  • Go to a cafe and read a good book.
  • Write a poem, draw or sing a song.
Stop Obsessing over Disturbing Thoughts Step 10

Step 2. Determine if you need professional help

In some cases, the disturbing thoughts can be related to antisocial behavior, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, or obsessive-compulsive behavior. If you often have disturbing thoughts, ask yourself the following questions.

  • Would you consider realizing thoughts that might be harmful?
  • Are you planning to hurt yourself or others?
  • Do you think or plan to harm someone with the intention of doing so?
  • Do you hear voices telling you to hurt yourself or others?
  • Are your obsessive thoughts or behaviors affecting your life at home or at work?
  • Do you constantly relive a traumatic experience?

    If you answer yes to any of these questions, you should consult a specialist

Stop Obsessing over Disturbing Thoughts Step 11

Step 3. Join a support group

If your disturbing thoughts are related to something that other people are struggling with, try to find help. If intrusive thoughts are prevalent and other people may be having them, seek out a support group where you can meet people who will understand you. For example, if your partner is suffering from cancer, there are support groups where you can share how you are feeling and what you are afraid of.


  • Don't try to just ignore the thought. You don't make your thoughts go away by ignoring them and you could make them worse.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help or discuss these thoughts with someone.
  • Remember, just because you have disturbing or intrusive thoughts doesn't mean you are crazy. It's natural sometimes to think about disturbing things (especially because of the media coverage we are immersed in).
  • Try to occupy yourself with a hobby to feel more accomplished.
  • Do meditation that helps you clean your mind.
  • If the going gets really bad, you need to talk to someone. The best thing to do is say what's on your mind.
  • If your case gets too bad, don't try to self-medicate. Instead, seek help from a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

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