Our Latest Blogs

5 Ways to Free Your Mind from Intrusive Thoughts

swimming polar bear

You’re headed to bed early – excited to finally get a full night’s rest. But as soon as your head hits the pillow, your brain is consumed with an unwanted, disturbing thought. You continue to dwell on that thought, tossing and turning all night long.

Have you ever experienced a similar scenario where an unwelcome thought seemingly appeared out of nowhere?

Most likely, you have. A study on the general population found that around 99.4% of individuals experience intrusive thoughts occasionally. However, only 13% of those individuals experience them frequently.

What Causes Intrusive Thoughts?

While it’s completely normal to experience intrusive thoughts from time-to-time, the underlying problem with them occurs when we continue to obsess and worry about them. So, it comes as no surprise that intrusive thoughts are associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety disorders.

While intrusive thoughts can be random, a person’s own life experience or reactions to an event typically influences them. For example, someone may see a report on their local news station about a burglary. This report can subconsciously cause obsessive thoughts that a burglar may break into their own home.

Intrusive thoughts come in a variety of forms, but some of the most common themes include:

Five Tips to Stop Intrusive Thoughts

The good news is that disturbing thoughts don’t have to consume your life. You can overcome and free your mind from them. Next time you’re faced with an intrusive thought, keep these five tips in mind.

1.     Don’t suppress the thought

For many people, the first reaction they have when faced with an intrusive thought is to try to forget it about it. Unfortunately, this method results in the exact opposite effect – you end up thinking about the intrusive thought even more.

An experiment by Daniel Wegner, a psychology professor at Harvard University, demonstrated this concept. He asked participants in the study not to think about white bears for 5 minutes, and guess what happened? The participants thought about white bears more than once per minute on average.

Instead of consciously suppressing your thought, try to divert your attention away from it with an engaging activity. For example, try completing a crossword puzzle or reading a book.

Make sure you aren’t switching between a bunch of tasks. Fully immerse yourself in a single activity, and make sure it can’t be linked back to the intrusive thought in any way. For example, if you’re having intrusive thoughts related to death, it wouldn’t make sense to divert your attention by reading a book about murder.

2.     Recognize the difference between thought and reality

A big concern for many people with intrusive thoughts is the fear they may act out on a dark intrusive thought, such as harming someone they love.  They want to understand the meaning behind these thoughts and seek reassurance that they won’t commit them.

However, intrusive thoughts are what they suggest – just thoughts. These thoughts are not a sign of what’s to come, and there is no intent to act on them, no matter what your OCD or anxiety wants you to believe.

With that in mind, accept these thoughts as mere thoughts when they arise. Let them pass freely through your mind – recognizing them, but not allowing them to consume you. By accepting intrusive thoughts as just another thought, you’ll become less likely to worry about them over time.

3.     Identify the triggers

Often, your thoughts are not entirely random, and your day-to-day interactions may influence them. Keeping a journal of your intrusive thoughts can help you understand patterns over time.

In addition to listing out your thoughts, keep a record of your overall mood, and notes about your day.  As you start to notice similar thoughts appearing over time, refer back to those notes, and see if you can identify any patterns.

Maybe these thoughts were happening when you had a lot of free time, or perhaps they were occurring after you watched a violent movie. By tracking these patterns, you may be able to pin down the root cause and fix the underlying issue.

4.     Implement a positive change into your daily routine

If you infuse your life with more positive vibes, you’re less likely to have space for negative ones. So why not integrate a lifestyle change that’s proven to make you feel good and develop it into a consistent habit?

Some examples of changes you could make in your daily routine include:

If you notice yourself having intrusive thoughts more commonly in the morning, implement these activities as soon as you wake up. A shift in your mindset could do wonders in shaking off intrusive thoughts.

5.     Talk it out and don’t rule out therapy

Many people feel ashamed to admit they’re having intrusive thoughts or even experience feelings of guilt related to them. They attempt to deal with their thoughts on their own and keep them hidden from others.

However, talking through your feelings with someone you trust can be extremely beneficial. By being open and vulnerable about how you’re feeling and what you’re experiencing, you may develop a whole new perspective on your situation.

For some people, talking to a stranger can be easier than talking to someone you know. In this scenario, therapy can be a good option. There are many types of therapy available – both in individual and group settings. Do your research and take time to evaluate all of your options.

Intrusive thoughts happen to us all from time to time. With a little bit of focus and commitment, you can overcome your intrusive thoughts. Your success depends on your ability to fight the urge to worry and obsess over them.



About the Author:  Krystal Childrey is a freelance writer based in Seattle, WA. She specializes in creating blog posts, email campaigns, and website copy for mental health businesses. When she isn’t writing, you can find her hiking around the PNW.

Photo by Peter Neumann on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.

Recommended for You

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

32 thoughts on “5 Ways to Free Your Mind from Intrusive Thoughts

  1. Jay Boll, Editor in Chief www.rtor.org says:


    Thank you for reading the blog and commenting.

    The fifth recommendation in the article is to try therapy. If the other techniques for managing intrusive thoughts aren’t working, you may want to try this option.

    Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is recommended for this type of problem.

    If you would like more information on CBT or to get help locating a therapist where you live, send us an email at help@rtor.org or click this link to Contact a Resource Specialist.

    Best wishes,


  2. John Jerpe says:

    My intrusive thoughts aggravate my nerve root pain in my feet (diabetes). I take Gabapentin for the pain but if I have even a small amount of pain the intrusive thoughts can make me feel like my feet are being held over an open flame. My intrusive thoughts are usually fantasies about broken glass or a sharp blade cutting my feet.

  3. Dante Zamarro says:

    My intrusive thoughts are triggered by past unpleasant experiences e,g,watching my grandchildren open their greeting cards and taking out money given by grandparents,godparents,aunts,uncles,etc.I start remembering doing the same thing.My rat mother took all of it telling us she was putting in trust for me for college.On the day I was supposed to pay my tuition or not come back,my mother said she used the money to pay my father’s funeral.Baloney,she had just come back from Florida in her NEW chrysler convertible.I cannot get past these thoughts ‘

  4. Kyle says:

    I would not recommend Yoga, that is known to be Hindu prayer poses, and therefore satanic. Anything that is not of The Lord Jesus Christ is not of God.

  5. Danielle Leblanc says:

    Hi Kyle,

    Thank you for reading and commenting on our blog post. The article is recommending yoga solely as a relaxation technique to clear one’s mind.


  6. George Pagett says:

    Thank you for this. It helped me a lot to know this is normal. My intrusive thoughts are literally what you described in number 2. Constantly imagining myself stabbing my mum. And whenever I see a knife I just think I could pick it up and kill her right now, but I wouldn’t ever do that because I love her and don’t wanna lose her. But my intrusive thoughts make me think I will. I will try to use these methods to help my intrusive thoughts moving on. Once again, thank you for this. Truly thank you so much.

  7. Danielle Leblanc says:


    Thank you for reading the blog and commenting.

    The kind of intrusive thoughts that you are experiencing is common in harm OCD. Harm OCD is characterized by having intrusive, unwanted, aggressive thoughts of being violent towards someone. People who experience harm OCD engage in compulsions and rituals to help relieve their anxiety.

    It does not mean the person is a danger as long as they’re aware it’s happening and know they would never act on it, though it’s highly recommended for someone having these thoughts to consult a professional.

    If anyone is experiencing similar thoughts and would like more information to get help locating a therapist where you live, send us an email at help@rtor.org or click this link to Contact a Resource Specialist


  8. D says:

    Great article. I’m really struggling at the moment with thoughts that are not real. These thoughts would damage someone close to me if I repeated and a bigger struggle is hiding what I’m going through. It’s like tuerettes syndrome but with thoughts. Very surprised that in the year 2022 folks still believe that the likes of yoga are evil. I would be lost without methods from alternative practices

  9. Ashley says:

    Hello! Im looking for a therapist in/or close to Council Bluffs, Iowa for intrusive thoughts.

  10. Danielle Leblanc says:

    Hi Ashley,

    Thank you for reading the blog and commenting. You will be contacted directly with some resources please check your email.


  11. Danielle Leblanc says:


    Thank you for reading the blog and commenting. Glad to hear that you use different methods to address your intrusive thoughts.

    You may also consider and benefit from engaging therapy, as you have mentioned some recent struggles.
    You will be contacted directly with some additional resources, please check your email.


  12. Anthony g says:

    Hey there, have done reasearch and haven’t came across what am experiencing
    Have intrusive thoughts about this person or people that have met or know really well and these people are either weird , ugly, nasty,Uncivilized, all of the above,
    And almost everything I would do triggers a memory or thought of this person and reminds me of the Gruesome and disgusting way this person lives and does stuff it can be anything or any action it happens about 24/7 exept when sleeping and even then there are times where this disgusting (physically and personality) intrudes. Could go an entire day with a single drink no matter how thirsty because the trigger/memory of this person and the way he poured his drink and the way he did it in an ugly way with his ugly for of drinking, uuuugghhccchhh nasty disgusting, that’s just one example imagine that this Quasimoto Is there by everything, eating drinking, sleeping, waking , showering, all day every action as small as the even typingg now had to erase and retype because this flippin person was there while typing this and is in mind all day!!!! It’s like a Parasite living inside you controlling every move of your life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Danielle Leblanc says:

    Hi Anthony,

    Thank you for reading the blog and leaving a comment.

    You may consider and benefit from engaging in therapy, as you have mentioned how much these intrusive thoughts are impacting the quality of your life.

    You will be contacted directly with some additional resources, please check your email.


  14. Sinead says:

    Hi I’m a general anxiety disorder sufferer. Have struggled hugely with covid anxiety but have definitely improved in the last few months. I had a copper coil in for the last 12:years with no issues much. I got a replacement coil in 2 weeks and doc said that I don’t really need new one as it can last to menopause I’m 43. I got new one anyway and googled copper coil replacement. I found forums on lot of people suffering mentally from copper coil and now I can’t get it out of my head that I have copper toxicity and that’s why I have bad anxiety. Is this an intrusive thought?

  15. Danielle Leblanc says:

    Hi Sinead,

    Thank you for reading the blog and leaving a comment as this takes courage.

    If by a “copper coil” you mean an IUD, I suggest you speak with the doctor who prescribed the device, and if your anxiety persists, I would suggest that you seek mental health help.

    You will also be contacted directly, please check your email.


  16. Zayn says:

    I have an intrusive thought but it’s about an argument with someone and fear that we’ll never talk. Is happens so often and I’m thinking of it everytime and also angry that something this trivial should bother me.
    Please what do I do

  17. Danielle Leblanc says:


    Thank you for reading the blog and commenting.

    You may benefit from engaging therapy, as you have mentioned thinking about it every time.
    I will contact you directly with some additional resources, please check your email.



  18. Yvonne says:

    Re the gentleman whose mother stashed his gifts of money away as a child for her own use. I wanted to say how dreadful that is. I can only hope that whatever parental abuse children suffer, they can become stronger because of it and be grateful that they did not grow up to commit the same heinous crimes. I wish you to be free from the torture you undoubtedly don’t deserve.

  19. Rinsha says:

    I thought i am the only one with this thoughts. Thank you for letting us know that this is normal , I have a childhood trauma about someone touching me in a bad way, so now whenever i touch someone i feel like i am doing it in a bad qay, even though i clearly know i wont do that and how bad it is, but ny intrusive thoughts are telling me that i am doing it in that way. All these years, this thought went like a padsing thought but now adays it is bothering me. But after i read this, it gave me a reassurance that i am innocent and those are just thoughts. Now i will try to take them as a mere thought and i will think that ‘whatever my mind says, i know i didn’t mean that’ i will surely try to change my mindset ✨️ truly thankyou so much

  20. Danielle Leblanc says:

    Hi Rinsha,

    Thank you for reading and commenting on our blog post.

    I am glad that this blog resonated with you and was able to find some relief in knowing that you are not alone and that there is help out there for you. You may benefit from engaging in trauma-informed therapy as you have mentioned childhood trauma.

    I will be contacting you directly with resources.


  21. Edward says:

    Whenever I see a good opportunity in front of me, I have an intrusive thought trying to ruin the situation. It all started after a highly traumatic event five years ago. After that, nothing good can happen to me that I try to sabotage myself. Most of the time it’s about something embarrassing, sex-related or religious. I get really nervous when that happens and I think, “It’s in my head now… whenever I think of this good opportunity, I’m going to relate it to that intrusive thought.” So I let go of that opportunity, trying to get rid of the thought. If I try to fight it, I fail and become even more stressed.

    Quality psychological treatment is very expensive. And psychiatric medication is very, very dangerous. I’ve heard of the permanent damage that antidepressants and antipsychotics do to people.

    Is there any hope?

  22. Danielle Leblanc says:

    Hi Edward,

    We appreciate you sharing as this takes a lot of courage.
    I will contact you directly with some resources please check your email.


  23. jessica says:

    thank you for this article!
    my intrusive thoughts come from past events and trauma. so now i feel as if im conditioned to think someone is mad at me or doing something behind my back when they dont respond for a while- such as in texts or calls. then i feel unworthy and like they dont care to talk to me or tell me things. when in reality i know they are busy at work- cant be personally on their phone all the time. i always think somethings wrong and they are going to just ignore and leave me. i hate feeling this way and having these thoughts.

  24. Danielle Leblanc says:

    Hi Jessica,

    Thank you for reading and commenting on the blog post. It takes a lot of self-awareness and courage to share with others.
    I will contact you directly with some resources please check your email.

  25. Aaron says:

    I have been having constant thoughts about a roommate who treated me very badly, tried to manipulate me, and cut me off from my best friend. Thanks for the information it helped me a bit I’m currently in therapy for other reasons but this has been the main topic of our discussions recently.

  26. Danielle Leblanc says:

    Hi Aaron,

    We appreciate you reading and commenting on this blog post. We receive many comments and emails regarding intrusive thoughts, and are glad to hear that this blog has been helpful to you as well. Being in therapy is commendable and a great step towards healing and peace from your intrusive thoughts.

    Thank you again for sharing,


  27. omar says:

    my intrusive thought is fear of being mad or become mad and mostly it occurs when I have free time I don’t how to overcome

  28. Danielle Leblanc, RtoR.Org Resource Specialist says:

    Hi Omar,

    Thank you for reading the blog and leaving a comment. Therapy would aid in helping you overcome your intrusive thoughts. You will be contacted directly with some additional resources, please check your email.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *