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How to Handle Intrusive Thoughts?

In the human mind, thoughts flow ceaselessly, molding our perceptions and exerting influence over our emotions. Throughout most instances, this internal mental landscape exudes serenity and harmony. Yet, on occasion, unwelcome and distressing thoughts can infiltrate this tranquility. Termed as intrusive thoughts, they are involuntary notions that can prove disconcerting or even distressing. Within this blog, we shall delve into the essence of these intrusive thoughts, comprehend the reasons for their emergence, and explore how to handle intrusive thoughts with poise and fortitude.

Understanding Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts stand as a universal facet of human experience. They materialize as vexing, improper, or even eccentric concepts that materialize seemingly without rhyme or reason in our consciousness. The question is how to stop having intrusive thoughts.These mental intrusions have the potential to evoke discomfort, inducing feelings of anxiety, shame, or alarm. Often, they center around themes like violence, self-harm, taboos, or actions perceived as socially unacceptable.

It’s critical to understand that the occurrence of intrusive thoughts does not label you as inherently flawed. These thoughts stem from the intricate orchestration of the brain’s mechanisms, where diverse thoughts, memories, and emotions intertwine. They need not mirror your genuine desires or intentions.

Why Do Intrusive Thoughts Occur?

It’s hard to figure out how to handle intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts can arise due to a variety of reasons:

Evolutionary Legacy:

Intrusive thoughts can be traced back to our evolutionary history. As a survival mechanism, our ancestors needed to be hyper-aware of potential threats and dangers in their environment. Intrusive thoughts might have served as a way to constantly scan for hazards and respond quickly to ensure their safety. While modern life is significantly less perilous, remnants of this survival instinct can still trigger intrusive thoughts when our brain perceives a potential danger, even if it’s not actually present.

Anxiety and Stress:

Elevated levels of anxiety and stress can take on a significant role in the emergence of intrusive thoughts. When you find yourself immersed in states of anxiety or stress, your brain becomes hyper-alert, enhancing the chances of distressing or negative thoughts surfacing. These thoughts often reflect your worries and concerns, amplified by your heightened emotional state. Interestingly, when you attempt to suppress these thoughts, it’s intriguing to note that your brain interprets them as needing extra attention, which can paradoxically bolster their grip on your mind.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD):

If you’re dealing with OCD, intrusive thoughts can define a significant aspect of your experience, and you’ll find yourself wondering how to handle intrusive thoughts. Within your mental landscape, a cycle takes shape, with distressing thoughts looping persistently. These thoughts set off compulsive behaviors or rituals that your mind adopts in an attempt to alleviate the anxiety associated with them. This intricate pattern tends to perpetuate itself, making it a considerable challenge to liberate yourself from the cycle of these intrusive thought patterns.


In your journey through experiences, the impact of going through a traumatic event can be profound. The aftermath of such an event can imprint deep marks on your psyche. Intrusive thoughts linked to the traumatic encounter might surface as your brain strives to process, comprehend, and establish preventive measures for similar situations in the future. Understandably, these thoughts can be distressing and unwelcome, essentially acting as poignant reminders of the trauma you’ve endured. This is where addressing and managing these thoughts through therapeutic interventions becomes a pivotal step in your path towards healing and recovery.

How to Handle Intrusive Thoughts

Practice Mindfulness and Acceptance:

Mindfulness involves being fully present and aware of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment. When dealing with intrusive thoughts, practice observing them as they arise, without getting entangled in their emotional grip. Understand that thoughts are transient mental events, and they don’t define who you are. Instead of trying to immediately push them away, acknowledge them with a non-judgmental attitude.

Reframe Your Perspective:

Intrusive thoughts can be distressing, but remember that they are a normal part of the human experience. You can learn how to handle intrusive thoughts; they do not reflect your true intentions or desires. Instead of interpreting them as threatening, view them as the mind’s way of processing various thoughts and emotions. This perspective shift can help reduce the anxiety and discomfort associated with these thoughts.

Mindful Distraction:

Practice redirecting your attention to the present moment when intrusive thoughts arise. Engage in grounding exercises like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or visualization as a way of how to handle intrusive thoughts. These techniques anchor you in the present and divert your focus away from distressing thoughts.

Don’t Suppress:

Paradoxically, attempting to forcefully suppress intrusive thoughts can amplify their presence. The more you struggle against them, the more power they gain over your mind. Instead, adopt a “surfing the wave” approach. Let the thoughts come and go naturally, without attaching strong emotions to them. Over time, their intensity tends to diminish as you stop engaging in the struggle to control them.

Engage in Positive Activities:

Redirect your focus and energy by engaging in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. Whether it’s pursuing a hobby, spending time with loved ones, exercising, or practicing relaxation techniques, these activities can divert your attention away from intrusive thoughts. Engaging in positive experiences helps shift your mental state and builds resilience against unwanted thoughts.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):

CBT is a well-established therapeutic approach for managing intrusive thoughts. It helps you recognize distorted thought patterns and replace them with more balanced and rational ones. Through CBT, you learn techniques to challenge irrational beliefs associated with the intrusive thoughts, leading to a reduction in their frequency and intensity. Working with a therapist can provide tailored guidance and support in implementing CBT techniques effectively that can teach you how to handle intrusive thoughts.

Stop wondering how to handle intrusive thoughts and get help from a cognitive behavioral therapist today!

Tired of grappling with persistent intrusive thoughts and seeking effective strategies to regain control over your mind? Frustrated with not knowing how to make intrusive thoughts go away? Look no further — at Uncover Mental Health Counseling, we have cognitive behavioral therapists to help you handle these nagging intrusive thoughts. Get started today by following these steps:

  1. Reach out to Uncover Mental Health Counseling to arrange a free 15 min consultation call.
  2. Meet with a cognitive behavioral therapist in NYC for your first session.

Begin receiving the necessary skills to learn practical techniques to challenge and reframe these intrusive patterns.

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