Intrusive Thoughts and Feelings With High Anxiety

Bizarre thoughts can be a result of severe anxiety
Bizarre thoughts can be a result of severe anxiety | Source

When you suffer with high levels of anxiety, many strange thoughts may develop. They are sudden thoughts that flash through your mind, leaving you feeling more alarmed than ever, thus exacerbating your anxious state. The nature of these thoughts varies greatly from person to person, but can be so scary and bizarre that you wonder about your safety and that of others around you.

These kinds of thoughts can be attached to anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and panic disorder. This article will look closely at the kind of thoughts we tend to get, why we might get them, and what we can do to cope with them.

Understanding Intrusive, Bizarre Thoughts

It is important to understand in the first place, that everyone gets weird thoughts at some time or another. We tend to forget this when are so severely anxious. Here is an example of how a person who does not have an anxiety disorder may think:

A television viewer may be watching a true crime programme on television. It may be about a family member killing another family member. A thought may pop into the viewer’s head along the lines of “I don’t get on with my brother and he makes me sick. I could kill him sometimes. I haven’t got a gun but there must be other ways’! He actually thought for a few seconds about the possibility of killing his brother.

This person may then stop to consider what he just thought. He would realise immediately that it would never happen, and the thought would be forgotten in a minute or two, perhaps with a silent smile at the irrationality of the thought. He knows he is not capable of murdering anyone let alone his own brother. Dumb thought!

You do not believe an average person gets these kinds of thoughts? The fact is they do. People don’t share their weird thoughts with others and keep their nature a secret. We are all guilty of not so nice thoughts often based on such feelings as anger, hate, disgust and jealousy for example.

Occasionally, some people may get a sexually perverted thought popping up in their head. It is fleeting, is not built on intent to act on the perversion and passes as quickly as it arrives. It is as if the subconscious brain talks to you at times without you asking it to! When we do not have an anxiety problem we dismiss these thoughts very quickly. We don’t ask why we thought them or give them any importance.

Intrusive Bizarre Thoughts When Anxious

People who are chronically anxious are in a highly sensitive state. They are over sensitive to comments made by others, their own thoughts and equally to their own fearful reactions. Everything is magnified in the mind of an anxiety disorder sufferer.

Chronic high levels of anxiety produce many physical symptoms that a person is not comfortable with. The sufferers are often only aware that they are trying to control the physical manifestations of their anxiety. When intrusive thoughts start popping up uninvited, sufferers will begin to think that they must be going crazy and definitely out of control. Already tired from the physical repercussions of their anxiety, they often find the thoughts the hardest thing of all to accept and deal with.


The thoughts can be the weirdest and most frightening thoughts you can imagine. They feel totally out of place and shock a sufferer. Years ago when I had panic disorder and was exhausted and sensitive, I would get strange thoughts popping up quite regularly.

For example:

One day I was peeling potatoes in my kitchen with a sharp knife. One of my children was playing in the kitchen at the time. Suddenly out of nowhere I thought that had I better put the knife down or I may stab my child! I felt fixated on the knife for a few seconds as if it was glued to my hand, then dropped it and walked out of the kitchen. This began my fear of holding knives. I did not feel safe holding a knife. It petrified me; such was the effect that one thought had on me.

This is just one example of many such thoughts I had. I believed in all of these sudden scary thoughts and felt totally unable to stop them.

Thoughts of Harming Someone

Over the past few years, whilst helping other people address their chronic anxiety issues, I have seen many who have experienced the most appalling thoughts that have scared them terribly. Common intrusive thoughts with high anxiety levels are that you may hurt yourself or others, especially those close to you. Several ladies have expressed their suitability as mothers, because they have had a fleeting thought of harming their children in some way. They believe that if they are capable of thinking these thoughts, then they must be capable of carrying out the suggestions of them. One lady was so scared that she asked her husband to take care of the kids as much as possible, and she kept her distance.

I must say at this point, that it is highly unlikely you would ever carry out an action related to these kinds of thoughts and it doesn’t mean you are going crazy.

You may actually love your children so much and be feeling worried about your ability to cope. A thought about harming your children could purely be centred around your love for them and a feeling of helplessness.


Video- More on Disturbing Thoughts

Other Intrusive Thoughts

I have heard people mention many different but equally disturbing thoughts. Some of the worst ones are attached to a depersonalized or derealized state, posing the question of one’s very existence. The unreality felt at times by those who are very sensitized by anxiety, throw sufferers completely off balance.

Other common intrusive thoughts are about:

  • Commiting suicide
  • Suddenly dying
  • Never finding a cure
  • Brain tumours
  • Going crazy
  • Behaving strangely in public
  • Being deserted by everyone
  • Losing control generally
  • Being allergic to everything
  • Being punished

Some of the thoughts can seem obsessional-compulsive in nature and can cause ritualistic behaviours in order to prevent something awful from happening.

Most of all anxiety sufferers are bewildered as to why they should be feeling unreal and why they are having strange thoughts in the first place. Many can’t believe for a moment that it is only anxiety.

Why Do We Have Intrusive Thoughts?

Chronic high levels of anxiety produce a steady stream or rushes of adrenaline. The pouring out of adrenaline keeps us on high alert preparing us to fight or run away. When there is nothing legitimate to run away from, the energy produced by adrenaline has nowhere to go. Have you seen how nervous people wring their hands, talk fast, rush around, play with their hair, and move around in their seats? This is all about having excess physical and mental energy. They have all this energy and yet they feel exhausted. It is a vicious cycle causing a burnout.

A tired mind finds it hard to grasp the rationale at times. A tired mind becomes confused much more easily and finds it hard to cope with the thousand questions it is being asked.

Remember how I said that people who don’t have an anxiety problem get strange intrusive thoughts and dismiss them immediately? These people are not on high alert.

A person with high levels of anxiety is, without realizing it, actually ready and waiting to jump on anything and everything, be it mental or physical in manifestation. The shock of the thought is much more pronounced because these people are highly sensitive, emotional and therefore highly open to suggestion. It knocks them for six!

After the initial shock of the thought, the next thing they will do is dwell on that thought and question it. Rumination is an enemy to an anxiety sufferer. They will analyze it and by analyzing it will give it a profound importance. The whole episode is then stored in memory ready to spring out again at any time. In the anxious state you have performed a reaction that is “anxious”. The next time that the thought arises, the same reaction will follow as if by instinct. In many ways it is learned behaviour. So you have a cycle of:

  • Anxiety
  • Adrenaline
  • Thought
  • Fearful reaction
  • Anxiety
  • More adrenaline
  • Another thought
  • Same reaction
  • Anxiety
  • More adrenaline

The thing to note is that the reaction is the very thing that feeds the cause.

Intrusive thoughts will go away when the anxiety is addressed.
Intrusive thoughts will go away when the anxiety is addressed. | Source

How to Cope with Intrusive Thoughts

  • Recognise that you may have had strange thoughts before becoming highly anxious, but they now have a magnified meaning because of your anxiety. Accept this.
  • Learn all about how adrenaline affects your anxious state. To understand is half the battle.
  • Look on this as nothing more than anxiety trickery or the bluff of anxiety.
  • Change your reaction to “no reaction”, not in the fearful sense at least. This is easier said than done, but as ridiculous as it sounds, try to learn to smile at these thoughts. Know that to give them no importance can break the chain of producing yet more adrenaline, by way of the anxiety they produce.
  • Don’t fight the thoughts. Let them be there, quietly and with as much nonchalance as you can muster. Accept willingly and give them permission to be there.
  • Engage in normal activity as much as possible when you have accepted the thought. Distraction will not work alone but will merely put off the inevitably of repetition. A nod of acceptance and then moving on with activity is the best way forward. Only you will know if you are truly accepting.
  • Tell yourself that you are in control and your intrusive thoughts only mean something if you give them importance.

What helps your intrusive thoughts?

  • Distraction
  • Telling yourself they are unrealistic
  • Relaxation
  • Nothing
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Thought for the day

Thoughts are words in the mind. Words strung together with letters. Thoughts conjure up pictures and therefore scenarios when you attach meaning to the words. In the mind of an anxiety sufferer, these scenarios are usually negative. Thoughts only have the meaning and importance that you give them.

Whilst action can follow thought, you have to make a conscious decision to act on a thought.

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Comments 37 comments

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

I had never thought about the way that intrusive thoughts and anxiety go hand-in-hand, meloncauli. This is a great hub on a difficult subject matter, and I hope it will be helpful to someone who needs it!

carol7777 profile image

carol7777 4 years ago from Arizona

Very interesting and a topic I have never really thought about. However it was an interesting read. Thanks for sharing this valuable information.

meloncauli profile image

meloncauli 4 years ago from UK Author

Thanks Leah. I hope it will be helpful too!

meloncauli profile image

meloncauli 4 years ago from UK Author

Glad you found it interesting Carol. Thanks for dropping by to read it.

kimberlie33 profile image

kimberlie33 4 years ago from Brooklyn, NY

The human brain never ceases to amaze. I've never looked too much into anxiety disorders so I never realized exactly what they were about. Thanks for shedding some light!

catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 4 years ago from the South

This is so familiar to me that it's like reading my life history! When I first started having anxiety problems, this would happen a lot and it's so scary. As the years have gone by and I've lived with anxiety for so long, I can handle any weird thought better because I know what you say is true, it's just a reaction to anxiety out of fear.

Your hubs on this subject are excellent and I have treasured reading them. Even as long as I've dealt with this, I still love reading anything that makes me feel better and your hubs always do. Such great writing, meloncauli! Thanks.

meloncauli profile image

meloncauli 4 years ago from UK Author

Thanks for your comment kimberlie. I hope you found it interesting. :)

meloncauli profile image

meloncauli 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi catgypsy and thanks for the comment. I am so glad you have enjoyed reading my hubs. It pleases me greatly if anyone feels better for reading my articles.

I have known so many people, myself included who have been dogged down by huge anxiety problems, and since I recovered a few years ago, it has been my aim to spread some helpful words and help as many sufferers as I can. Thanks again :)

catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 4 years ago from the South

No, thank you meloncauli for wanting to help people.

meloncauli profile image

meloncauli 4 years ago from UK Author

My pleasure catgypsy!

gsidley profile image

gsidley 4 years ago from Lancashire, England

Another scholarly hub, meloncauli, full of helpful guidance and explanation.

Two coping strategies that you mention I think are particularly helpful:

1. To just let the intrusive thoughts happen without trying to resist - if you try and push them out of your mind you tend to get a "rebound effect" where the thoughts push into our minds with greater force.

2. Challenge beliefs about the thoughts (referred to in the literature at "meta-beliefs") such as "Thinking things means I really want to act them out", "These thoughts mean I am going crazy/losing control."

Thanks for another great hub.

Best wishes

meloncauli profile image

meloncauli 4 years ago from UK Author

Thanks for the comment gsidley.

Yes I agree with your comments entirely.

There is a similar effect to , "don't think of the word elephant" and then all you can think of is the word "elephant"!

Best wishes to you too :)

K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California

What a crazy good hub! The connection between intrusive thoughts and anxiety is amazing. You make this difficult subject easy to understand. What a smart read! Thanks for putting it all together.


meloncauli profile image

meloncauli 4 years ago from UK Author

Thanks so much for your comment K9keystrokes and the follow. :)

wwriter profile image

wwriter 3 years ago from India

The human brain is amazing. Both the problem and the solution lie within the brain!

meloncauli profile image

meloncauli 3 years ago from UK Author

It certainly is! Thanks for dropping by to comment :)

McGrath7 2 years ago

A truly exceptional read, I've suffered with this problem and found this really stimulating, credit to you for wanting to spread the word and wanting to help people, thankyou.

meloncauli profile image

meloncauli 2 years ago from UK Author

Thank you so much :)

Si 2 years ago

This has seriously helped me to realise I'm not going out of my mind one of the most useful Pieces of information I've ever read thank you

meloncauli profile image

meloncauli 2 years ago from UK Author

Thanks very much Si. I am glad it has been of some use to you.

rik 22 months ago

A very good read which confirms information I have read elsewhere. I am currently in an anxiety relapse but using great articles like this allows me to keep the faith that I can ignore my horrible thoughts and feelings and get over anxiety again. It takes true commitment but recovery is completely possible as I found out many years ago.

Eve 22 months ago

I have always had OCD obsessive thoughts, not the usual worrying about germs type of OCD, but just annoying, intrusive thoughts like endless analysing, making sure thoughts are in even numbers pretty much rules my life but I have learnt to manage it somehow...usually too embarrassing to talk about as they are things that have no justification for worry.

Angela 12 months ago

I am having problems coping with everyday life, I feel kicked when I need to have a supportive family. I am a single mother, and my parents are a big part of my life, sometimes my mother talks down to me, I come home and cry, and my X's parents have actually called CPS on me, saying I have mental illness and do not accept help; and my house was a fire hazard, etc...They did this to me before, while my father was in ICU, after a 19 hour "cleaning" surgery, because of all of his blocked arteries. I lost a 70,000 a year income and have NOT worked at all this year, I do not know how I do stay caught up on my finances, except by the grace of God. I wish I knew how to deal with this, however, I definitely do not want to hurt my children; but sometimes I'd love to just run away with them, and no one knows where I am. I am very depressed, crying and sad 98% of the time. I wish I knew what to do, how to do it, and stress relievers ~My children and doing things outside with them are so pleasant~ I do feel stomped on, and cannot find a job, after working from home making fantastic money as a transcriptionist; EMR has done away with my job, and I have worked at two facilities since then, just as a temp. Any advice?? Your article is fantastic, thanks a million!

meloncauli profile image

meloncauli 12 months ago from UK Author

Hi. You have so much on your plate right now and you obviously have a measure of depression @Angela Have you shared how you feel with a professional? If you haven't maybe you should. Its hard with so little information to offer good advice but do feel free to send me an email. X

Liz 12 months ago

My anxiety stems from emotional dilemmas. Unsolvable problems. I escape using Facebook. I have to have mental stimulation so FB, the internet, web browsing, email reading, etc., do it for me.

I finally stopped all medication. It really didn't help me. The stress of living under an overbearing narcissistic husband and autistic child just about did me in. There was nowhere to go except to shelter myself from them by using but to Facebook, etc., as an escape.

Catherine 10 months ago

This helped me so much! Thank you so much for posting this, these thoughts can be so life-consuming!

Suilaruin profile image

Suilaruin 10 months ago from England

Thank you for writing this.

It's horrible what anxiety can do but it's how we react to the thoughts that the key to getting better. Just easier said than done!

Happylovejoy profile image

Happylovejoy 7 months ago from Singapore

I think mindfulness, as simple as it sounds, is the most simple and effective method for anxiety relief. Some people may underestimate the powerful effects it can have and simply brush it off. I personally try to practice mindfulness everyday and it has been pretty life changing. For example, I have the tendency to worry about the week ahead, the things I dread having to do, people that I need to face e.g. - but I am able to snap myself out of it quite quickly when I tell myself to just focus on what I have to do just for today. I also try to find small rewards for myself when I get through a hard day - e.g. longer hot shower, a small chocolate, watch a good video/movie.

My anxiety has also gone down a little when I stop trying to multitask. Just do one thing at a time.

And when disturbing intrusive thoughts are taking over, I find distraction is really helpful. Watching something brainless on YouTube helps me to feel lighter and happier.

Thanks for your post - enjoyed reading it!

chainfreeliving profile image

chainfreeliving 7 months ago

Glad this popped up on my page - likely because I just wrote a hub on anxiety as a health-seeking signal. I'm a licensed Psychotherapist and I already know of a few clients that will benefit from your wonderful article here on intrusive thoughts. Thank you for putting this together.

lambservant profile image

lambservant 5 months ago from Pacific Northwest

Meloncauli you write some very informative articles on mental health issues and they are well written in format and content. I just want to say thank you. (insert heart)

meloncauli profile image

meloncauli 5 months ago from UK Author

Thank you so much. It's a subject thats close to my heart. Xx

MPG Narratives profile image

MPG Narratives 4 months ago from Sydney, Australia

It's so easy to think you are the only person suffering anxiety when you are going through tough times. This article is a good example of how people can help themselves. It's well written meloncauli with practical advice and I'm sure you've help many with this article. Well done and thanks.

meloncauli profile image

meloncauli 4 months ago from UK Author

Thanks so much for reading and leaving your comment. Severe anxiety can affect us in so many ways.

Jo Lim profile image

Jo Lim 4 months ago

Amazing article written. This will help many especially in our modern society where stress is high. Thanks.

meloncauli profile image

meloncauli 4 months ago from UK Author

Thank you Jo :)

Edgar 6 weeks ago

Wow I like this!!! I been suffering with intrusive thoughts for 4 years after working as a correctional officer!! It has ruin my life where I'm never happy cause my thoughts make me worry and very upset that I might act on them and go crazy. I'm glad that I saw this page makes me feel that I'm not alone! Thank you for this article!!

Yasmine 2 weeks ago

Thank you for writing this article. I have a job interview tomorrow and I'm freaking out for no reason. I have a really high anxiety disorder. I'm on medication but i always have butterflies in my tummy.

I will try my best to cope up with the anxiety by following your points...

Thank You so much xxx

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