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Are Intrusive Thoughts a Sign of OCD?

One of the most common comments you’ll see under videos of people doing wild things on social media is, “They gave into their intrusive thoughts.” And while this may be a light-hearted joke, it strikes at a serious issue—intrusive thoughts can be incredibly distressing and disruptive for those who experience them. If you’ve ever found yourself having disturbing or unwanted thoughts, you may have wondered if these are a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and if you should seek help.

Columbia Associates offers OCD treatment services in our locations across Maryland and Virginia. If you are struggling with intrusive thoughts, call 703.682.8208 to get started today.

What Are Intrusive Thoughts?

Intrusive thoughts are defined as unwanted, repetitive, and distressing thoughts that pop into a person’s mind without their control. They can often be violent, sexual, or even blasphemous in nature. These thoughts can be incredibly distressing for those who experience them and may lead to feelings of shame, guilt, or anxiety. Even though these thoughts are unwanted, they can be persistent and difficult to ignore. People who experience these thoughts may think that they must be a bad person or worry that they will act on these thoughts, which can lead to a cycle of fear and distress.

Not every person who experiences intrusive thoughts has OCD, but they are a common symptom of the condition. People with OCD may experience these thoughts more frequently and intensely than those without the disorder. Additionally, people with OCD often engage in compulsive behaviors or rituals to try and ease the anxiety caused by these thoughts. These compulsions can further disrupt daily life and contribute to the distress caused by intrusive thoughts.

Signs of OCD

Intrusive thoughts are just one symptom of OCD. Other signs and symptoms may include:

  • Compulsive behaviors or rituals, such as excessive cleaning, counting, or checking
  • Feelings of doubt or uncertainty
  • Need for things to be symmetrical or in a specific order
  • Fear of contamination or germs
  • Hoarding objects that have no value
  • Negative thinking patterns
  • Avoidance of certain situations or activities due to fear or anxiety

It’s important to note that everyone experiences these thoughts and behaviors to some degree, but for those with OCD, they are excessive and interfere with daily life. Working with a mental health professional for a diagnosis is the best way to determine if you have OCD.

Managing Intrusive Thoughts

While there is no quick fix for intrusive thoughts, there are ways to manage and cope with them. A mental health professional can help you develop strategies to challenge and cope with these thoughts, such as:

  • Distracting yourself when intrusive thoughts arise
  • Challenging the validity of the thought
  • Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or mindfulness
  • Engaging in activities that bring joy and reduce stress

Finding support from others who experience similar thoughts can also be helpful in normalizing and understanding your experiences. It’s important to remember that you are not alone in this and that help is available. Even if you do not have a formal diagnosis of OCD, seeking support and treatment for intrusive thoughts can improve your quality of life.

Reach Out to Columbia Associates Today

Intrusive thoughts and negative thinking patterns don’t have to hold you back. Discover the support and resources available to you at Columbia Associates. We’re making effective mental health care more accessible than ever, with locations across Maryland and Virginia for those in the greater D.C. area and telehealth options for those who prefer virtual sessions.

For new clients, please click here to schedule an appointment. For existing clients, please click here and find your office location to contact your office directly.