Unwanted Thoughts: When is it Time to Get Help?

According to research, intrusive thoughts affect up to six million Americans. Intrusive thoughts can be violent or sexual in nature, often leaving you feeling embarrassed or helpless in managing them. Knowing when to seek help for intrusive thoughts can be essential for your mental well-being.

Here are some signs that indicate it might be time to seek professional assistance:

  • Frequency and Intensity
    If intrusive thoughts are frequent, intense, and disrupt your daily life, work, or relationships, it’s a clear sign that you should seek help. They shouldn’t dominate your thoughts or cause excessive distress.
  • Interference with Functioning
    When these thoughts lead to avoidance behaviors or compulsions that interfere with your ability to function normally. For example, you avoid leaving the house or going out with friends, you are unable to concentrate at work or school, you worry that you can’t talk about it because other people will be disappointed in you.
  • Duration
    If the intrusive thoughts persist for an extended period, lasting several weeks or months, or becomes more intense over this period of time. A mental health professional can help assess whether there’s an underlying condition that needs attention.
  • Increasing Anxiety or Depression
    Intrusive thoughts can contribute to anxiety and depression. If you notice that your overall mood is consistently low, or if you’re experiencing symptoms like persistent sadness, hopelessness, or panic attacks. In this case, it’s wise to get professional intervention sooner rather than later.
  • Safety Concerns
    If your intrusive thoughts involve harm to yourself or others, or if you have thoughts of suicide, it’s imperative to seek immediate help. You can contact a crisis hotline, go to the nearest emergency room, or reach out to a mental health professional.
  • Distorted Self-Image
    Intrusive thoughts can sometimes lead to a distorted self-image or a sense of guilt and shame. If you find yourself constantly questioning your self-worth or feeling overwhelmed by negative self-perceptions a professional can help you get to the root of these feelings.
  • Relationship Strain
    If your intrusive thoughts are affecting your relationships with friends, family, or romantic partners, or even your spirituality, it’s a sign that you may need assistance. Confiding in loved ones is important and helpful but a professional can help you uncover the root cause and help you create tools for healthier communication.
  • Ineffectiveness of Self-Help Strategies
    If you’ve tried various self-help techniques and strategies to manage intrusive thoughts but haven’t seen improvement over a few months, a professional can provide tailored guidance and therapeutic interventions.
  • Loss of Enjoyment
    If intrusive thoughts are robbing you of the ability to enjoy activities you once loved or are causing you to isolate yourself from social situations, seeking help is crucial to reclaiming your quality of life.

Intrusive thoughts can be distressing, but they are treatable. Seeking professional help early can lead to more effective management and improved well-being. Mental health professionals can provide the necessary support and treatment options to help you regain control over your thoughts and emotions. Remember that seeking help is a sign of strength and self-care, not weakness. Here is a helpful article on how ways anxiety lies, which might be preventing you from taking the next steps to get the help you need.

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