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Intrusive Thoughts and Feelings With High Anxiety

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Bizarre thoughts can be a result of severe anxiety.

Bizarre thoughts can be a result of severe anxiety.

When you suffer from 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 they 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.


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 might 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.

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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.


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 throws sufferers completely off balance.

Other common intrusive thoughts are about:

  • 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 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 suggestions. 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, they will give it 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.

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 at 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.

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.

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


meloncauli (author) from UK on August 25, 2018:

Hi. Sorry to hear you are going through this. At the risk of repeating myself, I would tell you that it is the probing - the questioning to determine the legitimacy of the thought that actually gives it further importance. You should try to resist! Your cup IS half full! You are surrounded by love but you question your very self. Have faith. You have recognised that filling your head with negativity is part of the problem. You are capable of seeing that glass half implement it every time you question your thoughts and your very self.

Crystal on August 17, 2018:

I keep this page bookmarked so I can refer back to it when I feel the need for reassurance. I first had intrusive thoughts with post partum anxiety seven years ago (watching the negativity on the news wreaks havoc on anxiety)... But whenever I have anxiety those thoughts haunt me. I know they are not true, only associated with anxiety, but they still pop up. I think I'm going through some hormonal issues right now, and they are making me feel like I'm losing my mind. I know they are just my mind turning my worst fears against me, but why can i know that, repeat it to myself, and still fear the thought? I think the thought is just attached to the feeling of anxiety, but i would give anything to never feel it again... I am set up to speak with a Dr, but of course I'll have to wait a month to get in, so hopefully I can stay strong! I have an amazing life, with an amazing man who really loves me and helps me through this as much as he can, and I have 2 great boys who I know count on me to be strong... They are what keeps me going!

Any tips for self soothing through this time?

Aditya on March 12, 2018:

You can eliminate these thoughts through a simple technique. The trick is to not offer any resistance. The technique is quite simple - once a thought comes to mind, just observe it without judgement. No fighting, just acknowledge that the thought is there, if resistance comes up then notice that too without getting agitated.Acknowledge and let go, let it disintegrate in your minds eye and be gone. Try it every time such a thought comes up. It works.

Nicholas on November 12, 2017:

Thank you for this article. For most of my adult life I've wondered why these bizarre thoughts on repeat were the stickiest when I was in a very anxious state in my life, and I've had about half of those in that illustration bubble. I guess my question now is when does one know if it's just Generalized Anxiety or the Pure O?

meloncauli (author) from UK on November 04, 2017:


Yes I believe you can. Being extremely tired can cause us to misinterpret too.

Alex on October 24, 2017:


Hello Melancoli.. 2017 i developed anxiety which lead to intensive thoughts! Any negative emotion .. gives me intrusive thoughts. My intrusive thoughts have been recently of “losing control of myself” that feeling of “going crazy” .. it feels like an IMPULSE .. right after and its so distressing. I even get them when i feel tired and fatigued. Can you get these thoughts/impulses even when u are in a fatigued state ???

r on October 09, 2017:

i am always tensed and stress every moment. i feel so depressed at times and think i will become crazy. i have health anxiety and afraid of losing dear ones. please help. i have been through bad times in the past and after my daughter birth its been more panic. am afraid of worst happening to me and who will look after my daughter and so many dreadful thinking all the times and of course everyday routine stress. i feel heaviness in my stomach and palpitation, dizzy, gas, head ache, body pain and so many issues

meloncauli (author) from UK on September 09, 2017:

No I haven't but do please feel free to contact me if you feel you could offer any advice on the matter. Thanks for dropping by.

meloncauli (author) from UK on September 09, 2017:

Thank you very much indeed for your very welcome comment.

Tbug on September 08, 2017:

Good article. I have dealt with panic/anxiety for many years. It can be debilitating. I have been on antidepressants for as long and am now tapering off. Which in turn beings on anxiety. I want to feel normal again and not need medication. I believe it is essential to have someone to talk to while going through tough patches. Have you considered opening a Facebook page for those of us dealing with this to share and offer support?

raghuraman iyer on September 06, 2017:

I came across this wonderful article only now. I am 85 and have also experienced these intrusive thoughts and anxiety. luckily these did not affect me much since I came to know every other human being undergoes these ordeals.

many people suffer them without sharing with others or approach a counsellor or a psychiatrist

I suggest every reader of this article should take at least ten copies and distribute to others free thus doing a service to humanity. At least 75% of those who read this article would be able to free themselves from these intrusive thoughts and anxiety and live a happy life and also others to do so.

meloncauli (author) from UK on September 03, 2017:

Notice how negative and fatalistic those thoughts are. Have you ever considered that positive breeds positive? Its easy to get into negative thinking patterns so that they become your norm. You know the old 'glass half empty or glass half full' scenario? Try and put the glass half full into practice for every negative thought. Write down all those negative thoughts and purposefully find a positive opposite thought (glass half full). Look at this list at bad times of the negative mindset. Repeat the positive alternatives over and over.

Kylie on September 02, 2017:

Very happy to have found this article it's helped me so much I had a anxiety breakdown last night I couldn't shift the thoughts no matter what I do mine are about my partner that he's cheating on me or lying about things I know hes not he is the best partner ever we've been together a long time I have two voices one good one bad the bad one won he's very understanding. There not always about him they can range from the world ending to all sorts like the elite are going to take over mine are crazy thanks for reading

meloncauli (author) from UK on August 29, 2017:

Hi Austin. Ah but theres the con with anxiety. If you can persuade yourself to the negative which is common, you too can persuade yourself to believe the positive. It works both ways.

Austin c on August 29, 2017:

After reading this article made me very relaxed and at peace with myself ....10 minutes later I started questioning "well what if this isn't true" ..."why should I believe this and not believe that I have a disorder" ...." What if there's actually something wrong with me and I'm just using this article as an excuse "

meloncauli (author) from UK on August 22, 2017:

Hi Deanie. So glad you found the article hepful and a comfort. You might be surprised how common these thoughts can be. Some dom't even like sharing often because they ate afraid people will think they are crazy. They are not, you are not. Address the root cause, learn how to not add that second fear that feeds them and with time they will dissipate. Thanks for dropping by to comment.

Marie on August 22, 2017:

Dear Meloncauli,

Thank you very much, I keep comming back to your article in last weeks as it's really describing a lot from my own experience. I am currently reading Hope for your nerves from Claire Weekes, the way of acceptance and floating feels to me as a good way towards recovery.

Besides of intrustive thoughts I get sometimes just a strange anxious sudden feeling-mostly after having a look at a child. It's not a thought or imagine- just a kick to my belly and I feel then that I should feel wrong. It's very frightening although I cannot find any explanation here. Can this be also counted to anxiety?

Thank you once more for the supportive words. M.

meloncauli (author) from UK on August 21, 2017:


I am not sure of your friend's diagnosis, but the intrusive thoughts of a severely anxious person could be loosely seen as paranoid. There is a measure of mistrust, usually of your own safety and even sanity but the thoughts can seem compelling. A person who is having ongoing levels of high anxiety will feel very drained and tired, but then of course the anxious mind is rarely quiet making any quality sleep hard. Another vicious cycle.

Deanie on August 21, 2017:

I have read this article at the right time.

I can identify with it that much, I literally burst into tears.

I have been going through intrusive thoughts and severe anxiety for the last 2-3 months.

Knowing there are so many others going through the same thing has helped me a little already. I literally thought I was going mad!

Thank you so much, Im so glad I came across it. I will now try to deal with this in a positive way, instead of being scared.

meloncauli (author) from UK on August 21, 2017:

Thanks for your comment as it is most encouraging in that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I actually feel that someone has to have experienced scary intrusive thoughts to understand what another is going through. The thoughts are so convincing! Its as if you have spiralled into a different world where you are not sure of anything any more but such thoughts are alarming and there is a tendency to home in on them. Of course the more you ruminate about them the bigger and more realistic they become.

Jade on August 18, 2017:

This article is absolutely beautiful! I went through a period of awful anxiety, I thought I was going to commit suicide or just simply go crazy. I also had the same kind of thoughts about being a danger to myself, I would fixate on a hob and think I might burn myself on it for example and I'd have to leave the room. I also threw all the knives away in my house. When I spoke to doctors they didn't really understand and just said 'you may have psychosis', they then put me on anti-psychotics. I was having constant disturbing thoughts questioning reality, thinking people had been swapped, buildings looking fake etc. I had to drop out of uni, and many people would just be like... you 'just have anxiety, just sort it out'... It got so bad that I was too petrified to be awake so I'd have to take diazepam a lot to sleep (I was always careful to not become addicted). I'd think that I was having strokes, something seriously wrong with my brain, I was slowing going crazy. In fact, every day it felt like I was fighting against becoming 'crazy', it felt like if I 'let go' I'd become completely 'crazy'. I also had thoughts about supernatural things, I convinced myself there was a black figure in one of the rooms in my old flat... I couldn't bear to go in that room anymore - therefore confining myself to basically one room. It lasted for about a year and a half before I started to calm down, and just now I'm coming across articles like yours that explain other people have been through the same thing! It is so exhausting and every single day feels like a struggle that you need to get through, but - to anyone reading this struggling with intrusive thoughts - although you think it will never get better, it will! Keep battling away and being that strong person you are. Don't let the thoughts win, play the game.

Mohammed on July 29, 2017:

Thank you for this article. It's one of the best I have read.

meloncauli (author) from UK on July 26, 2017:


It certainly isn't easy because it almost seems like a split second reaction. Wear an elastic band around your wrist and concentrate on twanging it three or four times to remind you, distract you, and pull you to the realization that you must move on...change the subject. Dont forget to smile at the absurdity of these thoughts.

Jazzoid on July 26, 2017:

Involuntary thoughts and reaction to a badly handled childhood are probably as common as soldier's PTSD. Thing is, they are there many times a day interfering in my life and I'm reacting before I realize it. I react as much to the intrusion as the horror story itself. I expect the best answer is to ignore or let them go and if I could do that I'm sure they would peter out. It's just not as easy as it sounds.

meloncauli (author) from UK on July 10, 2017: