Destiny Recovery Centers

What to Do When You Struggle With Intrusive Thoughts

What to Do When You Struggle With Intrusive Thoughts

What to Do When You Struggle With Intrusive Thoughts

Have you experienced disturbing thoughts that seem to emerge out of nowhere with no explanation? This phenomenon is called intrusive thoughts and is commonly experienced during recovery from addiction. Intrusive thoughts may range from thoughts of violence and harm against ourselves or others to aspects that violate our own moral standards. When experiencing these thoughts, people tend to develop anxiety, shame, and guilt.

What Are Intrusive Thoughts?

Intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts. These thought patterns may become a form of obsession if not cared for. They tend to go against your moral standard and put yourself and others around you in harm’s way. It is not easy to overcome intrusive thought processes, but it is possible with the support you have through your recovery. 

It is important to be able to recognize the symptoms of intrusive thoughts and trigger points that may encourage them to arise. The symptoms and triggers often look different for each individual but tend to lead to the same negative thought patterns. Understanding what pushes you to fall into negative self-assumptions can be extremely useful in controlling and overcoming them.

Controlling Intrusive Thoughts

Overcoming and controlling intrusive thoughts may look different for each individual in recovery. There are various approaches that can be utilized to help recognize these thoughts and overcome them healthily. You may not find a way to alleviate the impact of your intrusive thoughts right away, but with patience and hard work, they are possible to control.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Controlling intrusive thoughts can be accomplished by utilizing cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT specializes in the identification and alteration of negative thought patterns and behaviors that cause distress. It has proven successful against substance use disorder (SUD), anxiety disorders, depression, and other mental health conditions. 

When applied specifically to intrusive thoughts, CBT can assist by helping identify and challenge any thoughts which cause distress. Learning how to recognize your underlying thoughts, such as “I am a bad person” or “I will do something terrible,” is one of the best ways to overcome these thoughts. By challenging such beliefs with more realistic or positive alternatives, you can overcome them. CBT may help significantly lessen the intensity or frequency of intrusive thoughts.


Using mindfulness techniques is another great approach to controlling intrusive thoughts. Mindfulness refers to the practice of paying close attention to the present moment without judgment or distraction. This practice can be extremely beneficial in combatting intrusive thoughts, as it allows one to observe them without getting lost in them and becoming emotionally attached. 

Mindfulness allows one to reduce impactful anxiety-provoking thoughts from taking hold and diminish their associated distress levels. Individuals engaging in this practice can let go of these negative thoughts and focus on the positive aspects around them instead. 

Exposure Therapy

The use of exposure therapy can help manage intrusive thoughts by gradually exposing an individual to situations that trigger these thoughts to arise. These stimuli are presented in a safe and controlled setting with guidance from a therapist. The goal of exposure therapy is to desensitize yourself to these stimuli over time so as to lessen their power and intensity. This approach may be challenging but ultimately is successful at diminishing intrusive thoughts that arise throughout everyday life.

Self-Care Practices

As well as therapeutic approaches, self-care strategies may also be helpful in managing intrusive thoughts. These approaches may include exercise, healthy eating, sleeping enough, practicing relaxation techniques, deep breathing, meditation, or seeking social support. It is important to ensure you are maintaining a balanced lifestyle throughout your journey at Destiny Recovery Center. Utilizing self-care practices is a great way to do this. These practices can also help to distract yourself from intrusive thoughts that arise during your journey.

By ensuring that your needs are met in other areas, you can focus on overcoming your thought processes. When you are attempting to alleviate your intrusive thoughts while the rest of your body is out of balance, you likely will not make much progress. Recovery requires you to take one step at a time. Focus on what you are able to change within each given moment and work your way up to life-long changes that support your sobriety. 

Seeking Help for Intrusive Thoughts

Many people experience intrusive thoughts throughout recovery. If you find that these are taking over, just remember that you are not alone. It is crucial to seek assistance and support from your team at Destiny Recovery Center to manage these thoughts as they arise. Seeking help can help you stay on track with your success in recovery and continue building a strong foundation to move forward. Addressing your intrusive thoughts can help you to establish a form of self-control, which many desire to develop within their recovery journey. 

If you are struggling with intrusive thoughts, remember that you are not alone and that help is available. Utilize our professional staff at Destiny Recovery Center to guide you through effective treatment options. These options may include cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness, or exposure therapy. Additionally, make self-care a priority in your life by practicing relaxation techniques, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and seeking support from loved ones. With the right tools and support, managing intrusive thoughts and living a fulfilling life is possible. Don’t hesitate to take the first step towards seeking help and improving your mental health. To learn more about intrusive thoughts and overcoming them in your recovery journey, reach out to Destiny Recovery Center at (909) 413-4304.