Intrusive Thoughts and Depression

Intrusive thoughts are the numerous irrelevant thoughts that occur to a person in a situation. The unpleasant nature of these thoughts can lead to several disorders and conditions that affect the mental health of a person. Excessive and frequent occurrence of intrusive thoughts in a person invariably results in depression.

Image Credit: Photographee.eu / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Photographee.eu / Shutterstock

Depression

Depression is a kind of mental disorder that negatively affects the way one thinks, feels, and reacts to a situation. It can be either long term or temporary and causes feelings such as sadness and loss of interest in real life, which has the capability to depress a person’s mood and efficiency at work. Depression can hinder concentration and contribute to keeping the person stuck on a particular thought or past incident.

It is among the most common mental disorders and affects about 10% of the population.

Types of depressive thoughts

  • Difficulty in making decisions or concentrating on an activity.
  • Continuous sense of guilt and worthlessness.
  • Constant thoughts of death or committing suicide.
  • Change in physical activities and the way of response.
  • Frequent loss of energy and feeling of laziness.
  • Not eating or eating too much.
  • Lack of sleep or sleeping too much.
  • Continuously feeling sad without a reason.

Repetitive Intrusive Thoughts

Repetitive thoughts are the major causes of mental depression. People who suffer from depression often get stuck with a single or bunch of intrusive thoughts that arise frequently. These types of repetitive intrusive thoughts are known as Rumination. People who easily get upset and brood over a problem again and again in their daily life are called ruminators.

For instance, when a person is facing a problem, the right way to go about it is to solve or overcome it. However, the ruminator takes an exceedingly long time over it, studying and analyzing it for hours. He repeatedly thinks about the problem and forgets to find a solution for it. That is when the repetitive thoughts turn problematic. If a situation pushes one into a bad mood, repeated thinking about it will upset the person and stop all his activity for as long as the thought stays with him.

Recent research has proved that people with repetitive intrusive thoughts have huge possibilities of developing depression and anxiety. Such people face a tough time in relieving themselves from the problem and overcoming their thoughts. The baseline cause of both disorders is intrusive thoughts. Several studies have showcased that people who suffer from depression are subject to frequent repetitive thoughts.

Impact of Intrusive Thoughts on Depression

Both anxiety and depression are interlinked. Some people may have depression and then develop anxiety; a person who suffers from anxiety might develop depression; finally, a person might have both anxiety and depression concurrently.
Generally, intrusive thoughts play a vital role in creating anxiety that eventually leads to depression. For instance, the sudden death of a loved one causes depression, which may fade as days pass. However, repeated intrusive thoughts of that incident may create anxiety. Anxiety plays an important role in making the depression go deeper.

Types of Intrusive Thoughts in Depression

Examples of intrusive thoughts in depression may include:

  • Evaluating oneself in extremes; i.e., black and white and no gray.
  • Picking out the negatives every time, and reckoning only adverse things will happen to them.
  • Having a specific terrible experience in mind and assuming all activities will end up in the same way.
  • Thinking too much and even pointing out negative aspects in a positive situation.
  • Trying to read others’ minds to assume what they think about them.
  • Predicting a negative future, and considering it as their fate.
  • Viewing slight mistakes in a magnified manner.
  • Considering their thoughts to be true and the real fact.
  • Assume having a huge responsibility and predicting it to have a negative outcome.

Overcoming Intrusive Depression Thoughts

Although it is not very easy to neglect depressive thoughts, there are some common alternatives that can help one to avoid such thoughts from plaguing them. These include:

  • Making a note or writing down the thoughts will help in reducing anxiety.
  • Visualizing and understanding the thoughts might help in reducing the fear.
  • As soon as these thoughts arise, divert to other activities (like exercising, talking with friends, and hanging around).
  • Increase the problem-solving ability and act boldly.
  • Identify the time, place, or incident that causes these thoughts and avoid them.
  • Meditation can widely help in overcoming these thoughts.
  • Talking to oneself in a positive way and giving encouragement to oneself will provide confidence in facing the thoughts next time.
  • Accepting these thoughts will minimize their frequency.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Aug 28, 2017

Comments

  1. Heather Havens Heather Havens United States says:

    This article conflates cognitive distortions with intrusive thoughts. Cognitive distortions are exaggerated conclusions about an individual and his/her circumstances that are not supported by external evidence, though they do not rise to the loss of contact with reality that accompanies delusions. Intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts or images that an individual finds distressing and/or disturbing. These unwanted thoughts are known as obsessions. While cognitive distortions may perpetuate or worsen depression and anxiety symptoms, they are not the cause of clinical depression or anxiety. These conditions are neurobiological and frequently require a combination of medication and therapy. When treating anxiety and depression, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, in which an individual challenges cognitive distortions, can be enormously beneficial, but may not be adequate to alleviate symptoms entirely.

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