Let's talk about Scary irrational and obsessive thoughts..why are you having them, why can't you seem to stop them and why won't they go away?
When we suffer Anxiety constant racing negative thoughts happen automatically.
When we are in the Anxiety or Depressive state racing thoughts just seem to take over our minds, they are constant day and night and don't seem to have a "turn off" button. The very worst thing though is that they tend to be black and negative and really scary having a real sting in their tail. My thoughts seemed almost to hurt me physically, I felt a real sting through my chest as the thoughts I had as a result of Anxiety and Depression were just so black and disturbing.
I remember thinking, I am a good person so why is this happening to me and does this mean I am a bad person?. I also used to think - does having these thoughts mean that I will act on them?
This really scared me and I became scared of having the thoughts and did anything I could not to "think" them. This made them come more and in turn caused me to feel much worse.
Because I didn't realise that having these thoughts comes with having Depression and Anxiety, I was really alarmed that they actually were a warning sign of impending serious mental illness. I was scared to tell anyone in case they were alarmed and convinced I was evil or seriously ill and so struggled on in silence petrified of the thoughts, but also petrified to let onto anyone how I was feeling.
This kept the thoughts in power and kept me firmly locked in the cycle of fear and low mood.
What I never understood though, is had I done more research at the time or in fact confided in my Doctor, I maybe would have understood that these thoughts are normal for what you are currently going though and accompanied "low mood and Anxiety". Maybe had I understood this I would have saved myself a lot of fear and suffering.
Thoughts are a symptom of Anxiety and Depression, just like spots are a symptom of chicken pox. If you had chicken pox you would just accept spots as a part of it, ignore them where you can and allow them to pass. Anxious obsessive thoughts are the same in that they are a symptom, need to be seen as a symptom and ignored and allowed to do their thing and then pass over. I know in practice that this is more difficult, but thoughts essentially are just thoughts, they do not mean that you will act on them or that they will hurt you. It is just your Anxiety and Depression doing it's thing. Nothing more. It is a stage and it will pass.
This is why it's so important for me to cover a section on these types of thoughts on the "Its just a feeling site".
Everyone is individual and so black thoughts can vary from person to person, but to take some of the fear away from the people who read this page for help as its happening to them, I really want to cover a little on the kind of thoughts that you can have.
The type of thoughts you have need to be scary enough for you to sit up and pay attention to them and be scared enough to repeatedly try to avoid having them and resist them. If my thoughts had just been about me having a spa treatment or buying an ice cream they would not have created the fear needed to lock me into the cycle and the condition.
When we are anxious or depressed we our focus is solely on ourselves, all day and all night. We struggle to come to terms with why we feel like we do and we go over and over things in our heads to try to solve the problem (remember the job of our brain is to solve problems). We search endlessly for a way out of our internal hell. Eventually this thinking becomes a habit and wears us down, making us feel like we are carrying a huge ton of weight on our shoulders all the time. This lowers our mood.
Also when we are in a anxious or depressed state remember everything is magnified and that also means our thoughts. They seem to become very extreme and very black.
Anxiety is excess adrenalin, and this excess needs to come out somehow. A route of this escape can be scary and irrational thoughts.
Never ask yourself why because the answer is simple. You have these thoughts because you have Anxiety or Depression or both. It is a symptom of what you are going through and when the condition passes so will the thoughts and their hold on you.
So what are the thoughts like and what type of thoughts can they be?
Black thoughts can be a number of subjects such as:
- Thoughts you may harm yourself
- Thoughts you may harm other people, maybe your family or friends
- Thoughts of sexual harm to people you love
- Thoughts of yourself or someone you love being seriously ill or dying
- Thoughts of yourself or someone you love having an accident
- Thoughts of yourself or someone you love being harmed by someone else
- Thoughts of financial hardship
- Worry that a partner or friend may leave you or no longer want anything to do with you.
It's not uncommon for these types of thoughts to carry images that you have in your mind's eye, to help make them extra scary.
Maybe they even play out like an internal movies in your mind to really have an impact on your ability to function and wellbeing.
You can also have the anxiety provoking "what if" thoughts such as:
- What if the Doctor has missed something and it's not Anxiety but a more serious mental problem?
- What if I NEVER get rid of this Anxiety?
- What if my mind is never my own again?
- What if I never get cured?
- What if I will never be the same again?
- What if this is me now for the rest of my life?
- What if only I feel like this?
- What if I lose control of myself completely?
- What if I stop breathing or choke or pass out?
- What if I never enjoy anything ever again?
All these types of thoughts are really uncomfortable as they increase Panic symptoms and lower mood, BUT they are a NORMAL part of Anxiety and Depression.
It's important to remember that all just because you have a thought does not mean that it will happen or that you will act on it.
It's also important to really understand that these thoughts will always seem to have the worst possible outcome due to your levels of worry, so for example a chest pain becomes a impending heart attack or a headache becomes a brain tumour in your mind!.
It is just a thought and just your overactive mind playing tricks on you. If you have never had any of the above explained to you as a NORMAL part of Depression and Anxiety then is it any wonder you have been terrified by your thoughts?
So how do you deal with these thoughts?
One of the most important things that I did for myself was to really understand that a thought is just a thought. The average person has over 50,000 thoughts each and every day. Some are happy some sad, some fearful and some scary. I bet that if I asked you how many of your 50,000 thoughts you remembered today it would be less than 50. The problem is a low mood or anxious feelings causes us to focus on the bad negative thoughts we have. You are no different to anyone else and the thoughts they have each day, all you are doing is focusing on the bad ones when someone who was not anxious or Depressed would pay those thoughts no attention. Normally we pay no real attention to the scary or sad but in times of stress and Depression anxious and negative thoughts come in abundance.
Thoughts only bother us when we add weight to them and pay them attention. They cannot bother us unless we do this as they are "just thoughts"
Having a thought does not mean it will happen or you will act on it or that you are a bad person. How can it? It's just a thought.
I learnt to almost become a observer of myself, to sit on the fence in my mind and watch these thoughts and states of mind come in and out. I learned that by becoming an observer and "allowing" my thoughts, they stopped bothering me as I saw them for what they were just thoughts that could do me no harm and mean nothing unless I allow them to reign supreme!.
You do not have to like these thoughts, just accept that they are there and allow them to do their thing while you do yours.
It is your reaction to your thoughts that starts the obsessing and repetitiveness. Stop giving them a reaction, or allow yourself to think them or think them and give them at different more positive ending each time they occur.
Remember the explanation of how the Amygdala works, the reaction you can create in your Amgdala can also be as a result of how you react to a thought. It does not just mean a situation or a person.
Learning the art of Mind fullness will really help you to understand this process.
Another really important point which is also a theory of mind fullness that really helped me was to understand that I needed to learn to stay in the present moment.
When you are panicking, you are either worrying about the past or thinking about the future, you cannot panic in the present.
Finally, do not try not to think thoughts as it will only ensure you think them even more.
If I were to tell you not to think of a brown bear, I bet the first thing you did was think of a brown bear!. Trying not to think something will make you think it.
It does not matter how bad these thoughts are or how much you do not want to think them, allow them whether you like them or not.
that is the secret. Allow the thoughts because that is the way you will learn they mean nothing and cannot hurt you. They do not define who you are because they are just thoughts!
Do not try to push them away or apply behaviours to keep them at bay. Let them, stop resisting them and they will lose their power over you. Resist and oppose and they will get stronger.
Trust me as I know, I have been there. I learnt to follow the thought through by allowing myself to think the worst and I also learnt to sit on the fence quite a lot to observe my own states of mind as they happened. As I learned to allow them and let go they lost their impact on me.
They will lose power for you too, if you have an understanding and work against them in the correct way as they cannot stay alive if you do not feed them.
The content of thoughts due to Anxiety tend to be the spaghetti that makes up the bigger cycle of Anxiety that is going on. They are a symptom of that, nothing more. Once you start to see the bigger Anxiety cycle and understand how it works you can find it easier to remove some of your fear and stand back from your thoughts, seeing them for what they are. Once you are at that point, the content of the thought no longer seems relevant.