Author Topic: Beating Intrusive Thoughts  (Read 23161 times)

[Buddie]

Beating Intrusive Thoughts
« on: March 13, 2013, 11:22:13 pm »
Hello everyone!

I know first hand how hard it can be when you suffer from intrusive thoughts during Benzo Recovery. With your heightened fear and anxiety they can disturb you like no other. By far the most disturbing is causing harm to yourself or those you love. I've experienced it myself and it tore me apart! But in the midst of it, I discovered a write up about it that really helped me learn to cope and control them! Even on the worst days this has helped beyond belief.

I thought I would share it with you all in hopes to bring some ease to your minds! I know how tough it is, but believe me this will help you understand it and beat it!









Intrusive thoughts are usually inappropriate, disturbing and shocking in terms of their content and can cause high levels of anxiety and distress. They tend to represent the complete opposite of your true intentions, desires and beliefs and regularly focus on things that you find particularly unpleasant and upsetting. Usually anxiety causes initial intrusive thoughts to occur which consequently raises your level of anxiety. Increasing anxiety causes more of these intrusive thoughts to occur which raises your level of anxiety even more - a vicious cycle. The longer this cycle goes on, the level of attention that you give to these thoughts (and your thoughts in general) increases which in turn makes you feel they have increasing importance and credibility (which they don’t actually have!). These feelings can make you start to question and doubt yourself (for example, you may begin to think that you are a horrible person for having experienced these thoughts - this is definitely not the case!). The fact that intrusive thoughts feed on your anxiety and to a greater extent, your attention, is extremely cruel and can lead to them becoming obsessive and taking hold, resulting in you feeling that you’re losing your mind or that your brain is short-circuiting. Therefore as a consequence of having intrusive thoughts, there is usually a very strong urge for you to ruminate over them, try to suppress/neutralise them, avoid certain things/situations that can trigger them and to seek reassurance from others.

The way in which the human brain responds to anxiety (the anxious response) is responsible for the occurrence of intrusive thoughts. This is because your brain acts on any anxiety that is present in your system and conducts a risk assessment based on the level of that anxiety and the environment which you are in. It looks for anything at hand in your vicinity that it can attach the anxiety to (for example, something which could be perceived to be a threat to either yourself or someone else who is close by) and uses your highly creative imagination to construct a catastrophic ‘what if’ thought based on it, which can trigger a strong emotional response from you as it suddenly enters your head. This type of response is more likely to occur if you have an overly sensitive personality or if you have very strict/irrational beliefs (for example, ‘only bad people have bad thoughts’ or ‘thinking a bad thought is as bad as acting on it’). If instead, you are already troubled by a particular thought then your brain may act on the anxiety by reminding you of it or it may create new ‘what if’ thoughts which are often associated with it. After experiencing many of these thoughts you may start to develop a conscious fear of what new thoughts could possibly enter your head which fuels the process even more. For example, you may fear having horrible thoughts about certain things which you have a strong emotional connection to. Your brain acts on this fear and starts to create new intrusive thoughts based on these things.

It is the emotional response that you have to these thoughts which attracts your attention to them and causes your level of anxiety to rise. This in turn triggers the anxious response causing more of these thoughts to occur. To clarify, the thoughts themselves are not the problem (they are a normal part of the anxious response), it is your reaction to them which is the problem. The amygdala is a primitive part of the brain and is responsible for the anxiety response. It is vital that you understand that it only responds to feelings and emotions, it does not respond to logic or reason! Therefore in order to stop the amygdala from performing the anxious response, you need to reduce your level of anxiety which means you need to change the emotional response that you are having to these thoughts to more of a neutral response. A method which may help you to achieve this is now explained.

Firstly, you have the right to disassociate and detach yourself from these intrusive thoughts (i.e. you can observe them but you don’t have to endorse them) because
1. you have absolutely no desire to have these thoughts - they are completely unwanted! You detest them and certainly don’t ever intend to act on them. Therefore these thoughts have nothing to do with your ‘true’ self. In normal everyday life disturbing thoughts are usually triggered by external stimuli. How we choose to view them is down to our conscience, morals and beliefs. For instance, if you happen to see a news story about child abuse which you find really shocking, then you may experience horrible thoughts related to it. It is therefore important to recognise that although these thoughts would be inappropriate in terms of their content, having them come into your head would be completely appropriate given the context in which they arose. Similarly, although the intrusive thoughts which you are currently experiencing are also inappropriate (in terms of their content), they are completely appropriate given your level of anxiety - it’s just that your level of anxiety is inappropriate! The fact that you feel genuine disgust when these thoughts enter your head only goes to prove you have nothing to worry about (i.e. you are viewing the content of them in the correct way). Indeed, having intrusive thoughts and being affected by them actually reveals that you have a very sensitive personality (the majority of people who experience these type of thoughts just treat them as background noise and don’t tune in to them - they dismiss them pretty readily without much consideration). They also show that you have a very creative imagination (your brain is just using it in a very disturbing way as part of the anxious response). One positive way to view intrusive thoughts (and there are not many positives to having them!) is that they are a really good means of constantly testing your conscience, morals and beliefs.
2. they may not even make sense, are out of context or are somewhat abstract in nature so have no meaning in the real physical world in which we live. Again, it’s just your brain using your creative imagination.
3. you don’t have total control over your thoughts (i.e. you can’t control everything which comes into your head). At best, you can only influence them through your general behaviour. The worst thing you can do is actively try to suppress intrusive thoughts (even though it might appear the right thing to do morally or instinctively). Any attempts to do so messes up your normal brain function (i.e. alters your natural way of thinking), increases anxiety and actually causes more intrusive thoughts to occur - the ‘pink elephant’ complex (actively trying not to think about pink elephants actually causes you to think about pink elephants. Similarly, consciously not wanting to think about pink elephants causes you to think about pink elephants).

Since you can disassociate and detach yourself from these intrusive thoughts and can see them for what they truly are (as you now understand the processes that cause them and sustain them - they are purely hypothetical ‘what if’ thoughts that have arisen due to catastrophic thinking, a direct consequence of your brain responding to inappropriate levels of anxiety and fear - they have no actual importance or credibility!) you can have more of a neutral response to them as they come into your head. Any kind of strong emotional response that you have experienced as a result of having them (e.g. feelings of shock, terror, total disgust, guilt, shame, self-doubt and fear) is down to the fact that you have been misinterpreting these thoughts (due to a lack of understanding of them and how the human brain works) resulting in you feeling that they have significance, along with other factors (such as having a sensitive personality, having extreme/irrational beliefs, loss of perspective due to being in an anxious state, the emotional response may have become a subconscious habit so it happens automatically by default whenever these thoughts occur). Hopefully you will be able to recognise that this type of response is a disproportional response (an overreaction) to these intrusive thoughts (just like excessive hand washing is a disproportional response to germs).

The best way to implement the neutral response is to let the thoughts come freely into your head (or even say to them ‘come and get me’) and then ignore them (i.e. let the thoughts pass naturally through your head) when they arise. Initially this can be very daunting and difficult, especially if you have already developed the anxious habit of reacting to the thoughts by trying to mentally suppress them or neutralise/undo them by thinking ‘counter’ thoughts, but you have to persevere. Also, when you first start to ignore the thoughts it is likely that they will suddenly increase in quantity due to the fact that your brain is not receiving the usual response it is expecting, so keeps sending you the same thoughts again and again. Do not give in to them! Given time, your brain will adjust to your new behaviour towards these thoughts and their strength and frequency will significantly decrease (as you are starving them of their greatest power source - your attention!) which in turn will lower your level of anxiety.

Once you start immersing yourself in normal activities (e.g. spending time with friends and family, listening to music, exercise, work, etc) and as time goes on, the thoughts will fade away completely. It is important to note, however, that all human beings have inappropriate thoughts from time to time as they are a normal part of the human condition (i.e. you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t have them to some degree), but in the future you won’t be so tuned in to them which will make it easier for you to dismiss these thoughts automatically.
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: Beating Intrusive Thoughts
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2013, 12:11:03 am »
Thank you for your post. 
My intrusive thoughts seems to be changing weekly and each one starts the cycle of fear and anxiety all over again before it looses its grip on me.  This week its the thought that I am going to go crazy, so your post is a good reminder that these are just thoughts.
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: Beating Intrusive Thoughts
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2013, 12:19:55 am »
Thank you for that. Most of my intrusive thoughts are hypochondriac in nature, but I think your advice still applies.
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: Beating Intrusive Thoughts
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2013, 12:56:34 am »
Great post. I have had a counselor tell me I am addicted to worrying. I have a little bit of OCD. Mainly just intrusive thoughts no compulsions. They started as a teen after lots of pot use.
 I am having congestion of the lungs today. So my thought for today is I must have emphysema ::)
I was given a book that explained your post in a couple hundred pages. Your post was much shorter ;D very pithy and right on target. :thumbsup:
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: Beating Intrusive Thoughts
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2013, 01:10:53 am »
Addicted to worry? I can relate to that! My anxiety started as a result of Marijuana use in high school, back when I was a "cool touring band guy" lol. I used it to cope through the stress of growing up on the road and in the studio. Never learned to cope with my issue! Thus, 5 years later here I am!

I deal with hypochondria as well, I've always had it even in small amounts. My mother was very ill my whole life, so I grew accustom to symptoms being a sign of the worst. For me it is usually one set thing. During withdrawal it has been fainting and seizures that my brain holds on to. Never fainted in my life! But after googeling and googeling the signs and symptoms of seizures and fainting I swore it would happen to me! Still have some issues with it, but this technique has helped. I could tell my brain a thousand times it has never happened and probably never will, but it didn't care! So I had to learn to replace those thoughts. Sometimes I fail, other times I succeed. It's definitely a learning process.   
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: Beating Intrusive Thoughts
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2013, 01:51:26 am »
Cool! I play guitar and almost anything else. Into all types of tunes. I was a skateboarder so was involved in the punk scene and had a couple bands.
I think for some pot is detrimental especially at a young age. Started when I was 14. None of that for a long time.
 Man I would freak out if I started fainting!! Being an old school skater I have had the broken bones and chipped elbows and all that. Don't know if I could handle that now :laugh:
It really is a learning process. Maybe for me a life long process of practice. As a musician practice makes perfect :P It could be worse. I always remind my self that their are many that are worse off.
Count your blessings type deal. It works when your down.
You will eventually succeed more the fail. Keep at it.
[...]
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: Beating Intrusive Thoughts
« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2013, 01:58:17 am »
I am not that old school ;D Just turned 34 :tickedoff: Getting old :laugh: what instrument/ instruments do you play? Just curious. I have to make some dinner so I am logging off.
peace
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: Beating Intrusive Thoughts
« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2013, 02:00:40 am »
I hear ya! I play a bit of everything, but mainly sing. My old band "Then Came Goodbye" is on iTunes still!
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: Beating Intrusive Thoughts
« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2013, 01:32:29 am »
Cool. Yeah I play by ear. My sister who is a great singer says I can sing but always do funky stuff with my voice. vibrato. I can match some baritones and my mom who is trained says I am more a tenor. I need to sit at a piano and find my range. Quitting smoking will help. My sis says listen to Josh Groban. I like his stuff. I will have to check out your band. Don't have itunes but.. I will find it. I am more into playing then singing. Think Nick Drake type of acoustic stuff.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJSC25Ue8Gg
Found an amazing amino acid that is very calming. Very safe. Check it out for yourself. High doses are acceptable. It has been a Godsend. It is called Taurine. God Bless.
[...].
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: Beating Intrusive Thoughts
« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2013, 01:46:54 am »
I found minimal you tube stuff. The little I did hear reminds me of the vocals of Chris Carabba.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xqwqZhKSyg
I will have to check out more somewhere.
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.