How to Deal with Intrusive Thoughts (video)

When it comes to dealing with horrible, weird, upsetting, terrifying intrusive thoughts or whatever else your brain is throwing up when you’re struggling with mental illness, learning to practice accepting the stuff in your head and shifting your focus to doing the things that will actually make you healthy, can stop the struggle in your head.

29 comments On How to Deal with Intrusive Thoughts (video)

  • Thanks for this!! I’ve looked up some things to help but they’ve never gone into this much depth, this has helped me understand thanks so much!!!

    • You’re welcome, Sam! Glad you found it helpful.

    • hi mark
      I am recovering from my ocd..(intrusive thoughts , cleaning etc) I was accepting all my thoughts of sickness, harm n religion etc and I was getting better ur videos helped me …until I read a book called power of subconscious mind…its completely opposite to wat ocd recovery is all abt….the writer joseph murphy says tht negetive thoughts led to destruction….for eg.he say if u accept the negative thought like thoughts of sickness, pain, bad happening to u all will happen as SUBCONSCIOUS MIND DOESNOT understand joke, or unwanted thoughs! is tht TRUE????….he even wrote tht a person lost his arms just by thinking he will lose it if he daughters incurable disease cures….! now all my work in recovery is challenging me after reading this book I am feaking out….I dnt even feel like doing anything please help me to clear my mind as u were always my mentor…..:-[

  • Great video, man. You’re doing the world a service. : )

  • God blesses you Mark thanks so much.

    I ask why?? And learn to embrace my fears because Light is our unique true destination, a conscious filled with light and truth

  • Dear Mark.

    Thank you for sharing your information with us and helping me get started on the road to recovery. However there are a few thoughts I have been focusing on lately that are causing me much distress. This is going to sound ridiculous but it involves certain movies I like. When I have the thought “I don’t like this movie” I get panicky and believe that because I had that thought I must not like the movie. I start evaluating it and reassuring myself I do. The fact is is I KNOW I like them but a lot of the time I can’t shake off the anxiety that comes with that uncertainty. When I’m not worrying about that I have clarity on the situation but when I have the thought and ruminate over it I obviously become distressed over it. In short, I KNOW that these thoughts are not the embodiment of who I am and what I believe and think and feel but I still find it really difficult to prove to myself otherwise. Do you have any more advice you can give?

    Thanks

    Elliot

    • If you engage in compulsions like evaluating and reassuring as a reaction to that feeling, then your brain is going to give you that feeling more and throw more of those uncertainties at you. As long as you want to be certain that you liked a movie, you’re asking for your brain to make you uncertain, so you can try to make that uncertainty go away and feel relief. It’s ok if your brain worries about something or you feel distress. You can think and feel those things. You don’t have to react to them with compulsions. Try embracing that uncertainty and doing healthy things that actually matter to you. Being certain about whether you liked a movie or not is probably not one of your goals in life, is it?

      • No haha it’s not one of my main goals in life. It’s just I know that the anxiety is caused by thoughts but I stilllll feel this uncertainty. I’ve tried writing down my thoughts and disposing of the bits of paper. I understand it fully and have listed on paper the process going on in my mind when I get a thought I have labelled negative but I still ruminate. I say to myself “why am I ruminating when I know that all this worrying is a load of rubbish!” And still it continues.

        • Embrace the uncertainty. You don’t have to get rid of the uncertainty. It can just be there. You don’t have to answer it one way or the other or prove it wrong or right. Engaging in compulsions like writing down thoughts and trying to get rid of them will only make your brain give you more of those thoughts, like you’ve seen. The more you try to get rid of the thoughts, the more you will have them.

  • Hello. Sorryfor bad English – it’s not my native language.
    I guess I somehow ended up here exactly looking for reassurance that I am not crazy, since that is my biggest fear…
    I’ve been suffering from harm OCD for years. And then somehow i learned how to deal with it by practicing 4 steps method…
    But then when I started feeling better something new HORRIBLE hit me from nowhere and literally devastated me in three days only.
    Somehow, one night when I had a dinner with my boyfriend an intrusive though came to my mind: what if he is not real but priduct of my imagination and what if I am crazy person sitting here alone and talking to myself?! And that scared me so much that I ended up in endless heavy anxiety because my boyfriend is the person i love the most in this world.
    I think that I even started developing ridiqulous compulsions like paying attention when people are talking to him or paying attention to his reflection in the mirror…. and other incredibly stupid things…. and it still not enough because then OCD trick me with question “how do you know that you are not imagining those people talking to him as well” and similar…. OCD doubts in everything.

    I am desperate because I am not sure anymore is that still OCD or i become psychotic and really crazy.
    This really messing up my life right now.

    • This is a common challenge that can happen with the 4 Steps Method. With that method, you identify thoughts as being “OCD”. But if you try to do that, eventually your brain will find thoughts to throw at you that you can’t be certain about, like you’re experiencing.

      I approach all thoughts as the same. Then there’s no need to identify something as “OCD” because everything in my head is the same. What matters are my actions, not the stuff in my head. Regardless of the stuff in my head, I don’t engage in compulsions. If I engage in compulsions as a reaction to the stuff in my head, then it’s only natural to experience more anxiety, more stress, more illness, and more of the thoughts and feelings I don’t like.

      If you can access a therapist or a workbook to help guide you through the process of recovery, those could be useful supports to help with cutting out compulsions.

  • Can you give me some concrete advice HOW to do that? How to avoid compulsions and how to accept intrusive thoughts?
    In my case though comes in a split of a second and instantly anxiety appears, but it doesn’t last longer that second. And that proces repeats over and over again every minute for a whole day and destroy my entire day.
    Simply anxiety is too short to be able to caught it and stay with it for some time to become comfortable with it. And when i try to force it it doesn’t work…

    I feel so trapped in this. I don’t know what to do anymore. But im getting worse every day.

    • Checking is a compulsion. And it trains your brain to worry about those uncertainties more. When you check the mirror as an attempt to get rid of uncertainty, you’re actually asking your brain to worry about that uncertainty more.

      You’re telling your brain that it’s important to be certain your boyfriend is real. So your brain will keep worrying that he’s not real

      With OCD, the more you want to feel something, the more your brain will give you the opposite.

      So there’s two techniques that helped me:
      1) I would accept the uncertainty and then show my brain how I wanted it to act. For example, if I was uncertain my partner loved me, I would accept that I don’t know. I am uncertain. And it’s ok to be uncertain. And I wouldn’t engage in a compulsion to try to be certain. Instead I would focus on what I can give to the relationship because that’s all I control. By not reacting to the uncertainty and acting in a way aligned with my values, I show my brain that I’m not afraid of that uncertainty.
      2) The other technique I found helpful was agreeing with the consequences of the uncertainty. So if I was worried about being real or that other people might not be real or that I was hallucinating, I would agree that I was hallucinating and I was losing my mind and nothing was real and everything I was doing was totally imagined and everything around me was unreal but, all that I control, are my actions, so even in this unreal world, what I can do right now are healthy things aligned with my values. And then I would smile, and do those things. Whether the world is real or a hallucination, it doesn’t change the actions I can do to be healthy and happy and reach my goals in life.

      That 2nd approach is about showing your brain you’re not afraid of psychosis. As long as you’re afraid of it and choose to choose to stigmatize it as a “bad” thing and react to that uncertainty with compulsions, you’re asking your brain to obsess about it and be anxious about it.

  • I must tell you that last few days i feel much better. Your advices actually helping.
    This is how i managing to deal with my ridiculous intrusive thoughts, doubts…
    I kinda made a fusion of 4 steps and your method.
    Simply when thought/doubts came to me I tell myself “ok, that is my stupid OCD again wants to harras me”… “let it be there.” “Whatever thoughts are I AM NOT GOING TO ALLOW THEM TO DISTURB WHAT I AM DOING RIGHT NOW! No way! Regardless how hard it is i will finish what I am doing…. regardless if I’m talking to my boyfriend with smile on my face or anything else. I will behave in the same way like did before these stupid thoughts happened….”

    I must say it’s not easy but it DOES WORKING!
    Anxiety is going away! Thoughts are still persistent but I don’t allow them anymore to disturb my everyday life.
    Actually i have a feeling like my OCD is becoming “hysterical” now desperately trying to find a new theme to make me feel horrible again – something new to activate anxiety again.
    It is so aggressive and persistent….
    But I’m preparing myself this time for it. I hope I will be ready for any new bizarre and creepy though and treat it in the same way.
    I hope I’m not going to be surprised like when theme switched last time.

    But, maybe the most important of all – I made definite decision to STOP READING AND SEARCHING FOR REASSURANCE REGARDLESS OF WHAT COMES TO MY MIND.
    No more articles, no more Youtube videos no more questions and answers. They can only give me new bizare and ridiculous ideas!
    I don’t care anymore if I am crazy or not, but I’m going to live my damn life and fight this monster and win!

    Thank you.

    • That’s great you’re seeing progress and doing the hard work to cut out those compulsions! Keep it out and enjoy the adventures ahead!

  • How to honestly and truly accept doubts?
    Are there any techniques for acceptance?
    What should I tell to myself?

  • I have had Ocd for 18 years most of those years were relatively Ocd free, on medication for all of these years now as I am going thru menopause it has Retuned with a vengeance hat I have never experienced. My biggest fear is I will go crazy or have a nervous breakdown ! I just feel like I can’t keep taking it I try acceptance n to ask it just to be there sometimes it works and others not so much! I sleep maybe four hours a might win periods of anxiety n nervousness and racing mind ! I feel like I just don’t Know what to do anymore to help myself! I just tell myself to go crazy or have a breakdown n b done with it. Some days I feel such sadness n despair! This sucks ! What do u suggest?

    • This is a very common OCD fear. Are you able to access therapy to help with recovery? A therapist experienced with helping people recover through something like Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) can be very helpful. It’s totally possible to get over OCD and these types of obsessions, but it does require making changes and developing skills to support better mental health and fitness. After years of struggling with anxiety disorders, it helped me to recognize that the things I was doing to “manage” anxiety, were actually the things fuelling it. Getting to a different place does require us to do different things than those that got us into the place we don’t like.

  • Spot on!

    Even though I’ve heard it before and knew about it for a long time, it helped hearing you explain it!

  • mark kindly help me brother
    from 5 days I can stop myself thinking
    my brain going on throwing question at me iam getting a very strong urge to cope it up
    from these four days I cant feel every thing real and normal.
    iam lacking interest.
    mark I was when I was studying
    I got stucked in doubt that why so many languages people speak and how all language originated.

    how to manage doubt mark. it is killing me and I want to live as I was before.

    I had ocd of contamination and your advice recovered me.
    please help me I request you.

    • Sorry to hear about the struggles. You can tackle any OCD worry the same you dealt with contamination worries. They’re all about doubt and uncertainty. Instead of trying to manage doubt, it helped me the most to get comfortable with doubt.

      If you want to get rid of doubt, your brain will give you many doubts so you can try to get rid of them. Your brain is trying to help you get what you want. So as long as you want that, your brain will give you the opposite.

      But if you want doubt and you want uncertainty and you welcome them into your life, then you will experience them much less. They don’t have to be bad things. It’s ok to be uncertain.

      It helped me to practice not answering the questions my brain threw at me. I can be uncertain. I can leave questions unanswered.

      Chasing after certainty only leads to more uncertainty.

  • brother
    ”tell me one thing how will I know that iam doing compulsive thinking.”
    because sometime some thoughts or worries seem very essential.

    mark when iam disturbed by irrational question I say myself that i dont want to
    know the answer; but my brain pull my mind as like force thinking.
    all my family member can accept not knowing and are very fine.

  • brother”tell me one thing how will I know that iam doing compulsive thinking.”because sometime some thoughts or worries seem very essential.mark when iam disturbed by irrational question I say myself that i dont want to know the answer; but my brain pull my mind as like force thinking
    I cant become normal.

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