Fact-checking Intrusive Thoughts
Fact-checking Intrusive Thoughts

After reading a great article in BPS Digest on Fact-checking statements, it struck me how similar this is to a technique we can all utilise with Intrusive Thoughts (unwanted, upsetting, negative and unhelpful thoughts that arise when you least want them to). They can be symptomatic of daily life but continual and frequent intrusive thoughts that affect your functioning can be signs of anxiety and/or depression, depending on how it’s affecting you, how long it’s been affecting you and a combination of other symptoms being present.

The article suggests that if we hear an ‘untruth’ enough times it can then become true for us. So, let’s think about this for a moment…if your intrusive thought is ‘I am not good enough,’ and you’ve spent an hour most days a week thinking this thought on repeat then you are likely to start to believe it (illusory truth effect, as BPS refer to it). Repeated statements (thinking the same thing over and over in this instance) are processed by the brain more readily, because it is recognised information; considered a truth without question, regardless of if we suspect it isn’t true.

If we have intrusive thoughts it can be very easy to get caught up in them and begin to argue with yourself about what has cropped up for you, to doubt yourself and to diminish yourself. ‘It’s my thought so it must be true,’ is the trap we can fall into. How about taking a different stance with intrusive thoughts? Fact-check your thought:

  • Is this true?
  • Do I have any evidence to suggest this is going to happen?
  • Is this me saying this or someone else? I.e. whose voice is speaking the thought?
  • What is the worst-case scenario if this thought becomes a reality for me?
  • Is it a priority to sort this out if it is true?
  • Now I know it is true/not true, have my feelings about it changed?
  • What needs to change for me to feel comfortable about the outcome?

In thinking a new thought about your original thought, it can actually move you away from rumination and you can begin to work through the problem at hand more logically. Challenging your own thoughts and perceptions is a really healthy way to break your usual cycle of simply strengthening your intrusive thought through repetition.

Try this out and keep practising- see if you can change your thinking pattern.

For other ways to tackle an unproductive thinking cycles please see my other blog on Negative Thoughts.

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