How many times in your life have you made a mistake? You forgot something at the grocery store, you overcooked dinner, maybe you didn’t meet a deadline at work. Mistakes like this can lead to feelings of frustration within ourselves. Sometimes, we even start to beat ourselves up over them. Sometimes, we can’t seem to stop beating ourselves up, which is even more disturbing, and it’s no different for our fellow Buckeyes.
“Jeez, I can’t believe I did that. I feel so stupid. I let people down. Why does this always happen to me?”
These things happen to everyone and it’s normal to feel down about the outcome. Most people learn from their mistakes and move on.
However, for some of us, it becomes a disruptive part of our lives. The thoughts can be incredibly violent, like suddenly fantasizing about killing ourselves or someone we know. And these thoughts can get more intrusive with time. It can be terrifying.
Feelings like this, or intrusive thoughts, are a normal part of life. We often think things that we would never say or do in real life. It is when we start to believe these thoughts that it can become a problem.
The first thing to understand is that these kinds of negative thoughts, to a certain degree, are normal and everyone gets them. However, there are varying forms of intensity. Sometimes they can become so intrusive that they scare us and start taking over our lives. Other times, they simply keep us from getting out of bed each day. Either way, it’s the sign of a problem.
We hear stories like the one below all the time. When Intrusive thoughts become a reality it can be hard to break that cycle.
“Some nights I really do wish I'd just go to sleep and not wake up. I'm done, I'm tired, I hate feeling like I'm failing at everything. I hate that I gained back every pound I've ever lost. I hate feeling ugly.
I hate feeling like the only good I've ever done was finding my husband and having my daughter. I hate feeling like a weight you're dragging around. I hate that I'm a constant disappointment.
I hate that I'm crying right now because everything I said was true. I need help.”
When you struggle with a mental health issue like depression or anxiety it can be hard to look at life in a positive light. Everything tends to get viewed in the most negative light possible. We tend to reason that “If I imagine everything being the worst, I can’t be disappointed.” But that’s not true, and can actually add to our disappointment.
Mental health professionals call these “cognitive distortions” and, while everyone experiences them from time to time, they can become harmful when we start to view them as truths, like in the example above. Cognitive distortions are often sorted into a number of different categories by therapists:
Feelings like these can cause your mind to turn into your own personal echo chamber where your intrusive thoughts can multiply and reinforce each other. We tend to not look at all that we have accomplished but rather we get hyper-focused on where we have failed. Here are some examples:
Thinking this way over a period of time, or coming to believe these thoughts, can lead to serious mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, OCD, or bipolar disorder. Depression negatively impacts the way that you think and feel and can make accomplishing even day to day tasks seem impossible.
Common signs of some of these disorders can include:
Once in a negative mental state, it gets harder and harder to let go of these feelings, and what was once just intrusive thoughts are now obsessive thoughts. Depression, anxiety, and intrusive thoughts are all interlinked.
An event, like the death of a loved one, can cause many of these feelings but, as time passes, those feelings tend to fade. If we continue to obsess over them, the events of the death or even death itself can cause feelings of depression or anxiety. The anxiety and experiencing intrusive thoughts play a significant part in pushing the depression deeper.
This vicious circle that hinges on bad thoughts can lead to more complex issues like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or major depressive disorders.
There’s no denying that we are living in stressful times. We are working more now than we ever have, we struggle to come to a work/life balance, there are deadlines, and bills to pay. We struggle to eat right, get enough exercise, and spend quality time with friends and family.
The way that we are living can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety and, in turn, we worry more. This opens the door for intrusive thoughts to take up more space in our heads.
Americans, in general, saw an 18% increase in the diagnosis of depression between 2016 and 2017 according to research done by Insurance Providers. The results were even more shocking for those living in Ohio.
Of the top 15 cities/metro areas that were ranked as having the highest rates of depression Ohio made the list 3 times with Columbus coming in at 9th place and Cincinnati coming in 2nd.
There are a number of risk factors that can impact mental health that can cause mood disorders and mental illness. Some of those include
The intrusive thoughts that can lead to anxiety disorders and depression can also have more serious consequences. Ohio saw an increase of 45% in suicide deaths between 2007 and 2018 according to the State Department of Health.
5 people die every day from suicide in the state of Ohio. Many people experience thoughts of suicide during times of stress, depression, and anxiety, but they rarely act on it. It is when those intrusive thoughts (jumping out of a moving car, holding a gun to your head, swallowing a bottle of pills) start to become plans that it is time to seek treatment.
So if everyone has these intrusive thoughts and cognitive distortions, how do I get mine under control?
The first and simplest way to deal with intrusive thoughts is self-care. Take the time to see triggers and be aware when disturbing thoughts occur. Wellness coping strategies keep you mindful in the present and of the fact that they are just thoughts. You can label them for what they are and recognize that they may not be your real intentions.
Sometimes, however, talking yourself down off of the ledge can be too much. We may know in our hearts that what we are thinking isn’t what we truly want, but once we are in our personal echo chamber it gets harder to negate traumatic feelings and experiences.
In those cases, it is best to reach out to someone for help and guidance. Many therapists will employ the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or talk therapy as a way to help you come to terms with feelings of anxiety and depression.
Merely dismissing the thoughts or having someone tell you that they aren’t real may even cause you to fixate on them more. By talking during therapy, you are able to learn new ways of thinking and become less sensitive to fixations. Is it time to get help for your depression and intrusive thoughts? Take our no-cost mental health screening.
At SUN Behavioral Health, we are committed to helping solve the unmet mental health needs in our community. If you or a loved one is experiencing problems with intrusive thoughts, depression, or anxiety please contact us today.
When a mental health or substance use crisis strikes Sun Behavioral offers an emergency department that can intake and stabilize patients 24 hours a day. Skip the emergency room and come straight to SUN. We can admit patients in as little as 30 minutes.
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For a medical emergency, including a drug or medication overdose, call 911 immediately.