Obtrusive Thoughts, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Mental Health
The life worth living group met today where the discussion surrounded around intrusive thoughts, OCD and mental health concerns more widely. As always it was a lively, constructive and considered sharing of our own lived experiences and/or those of others.
The first question posed was:
What is the definition of Intrusive thoughts and how might they impact on someone?
It was agreed that whilst intrusive thoughts are almost hard wired into all of us, they are mostly dismissed or filtered out so we don’t even notice them. However when someone is affected by a Mental Health condition these can become a major problem, and are chiefly experienced by people with OCD, Depression, Anxiety, Post Natal Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Some examples given on intrusive thoughts were:
- Over analysing our responsibilities and exaggerating the impact were we to fail.
- Catastrophizing: always imagining the worst possible outcome.
- Unwanted inappropriate sudden thoughts such as kissing or punching someone when that is entirely against our actual wishes, but driven by a false anxiety alarm.
- Where we recognise how vital our care is such for a child, we might imagine harmful thoughts when all we are really focused on is care and protection for them.
Sometimes such thoughts lead to compulsive behaviours which may initially seem to offer comfort, but end up making things much worse. These can include excessive checking of locks and appliances to avoid danger or harm to others, and ideas of magical thinking, where the use or avoidance of certain numbers or tasks can either prevent or cause damage to loved ones. People who experience such thoughts know deep down that they are irrational and untrue, but shame and stigma can make these feel very real.
Depending on the extent of the problems there are a variety of treatments available such as:
- CBT: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Individually tailored help.
- Exposure Therapy: Gradual exposure to acclimatise to and overcome particular fears, e.g. contamination or social anxiety in busy public places.
- Personal Insight to learn how to diffuse delusional thoughts.
- Shared experiences and humour: There can be much stigma to any mental health condition but possibly more so with less understood and frightening conditions like OCD. Whilst sharing these experiences can be daunting, if able to do so, using humour and openness, it can serve to diffuse the power of negative thoughts and help affirm how we’re all affected by mental health and there’s no place for shame or blame.