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The concept of “intrusive thoughts,” just like that of “hearing voices,” is grossly misleading, and psychiatry does a disservice to their patients and the public by employing those expressions.

Back in the days when psychiatry viewed homosexuality as a mental illness, gay people would often complain about experiencing “intrusive homosexual thoughts that invade their consciousness.” Nowadays, for the most part in the western world, people don’t generally experience “intrusive gay thoughts.” Why not? Because they are not bothered by them. In fact, most people in the West today probably embrace them, go with them, or value them.

The reason why people experience “intrusive thoughts” is because they are disturbed by them and therefore they focus heavily on them, which then makes them experience their own thinking exceptionally vividly and with great intensity. A person’s frustration with trying to fight with their disturbing thoughts can sometimes get to the point where they disown their own inner interlocutor and begin interpreting those thoughts as “hearing voices” from some other agent.

I’m not personally a fan of many of the “cookie cutter” therapies out there that try to understand these problems as if they were unitary phenomena. However, I do think that you might find some of the techniques suggested by “ACT” (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) to be somewhat beneficial and reassuring. Specifically, it might be helpful when you are experiencing these “intrusive thoughts” to preface that thought with “I am having the thought that…” and just let it be, rather than trying to fight or reason with your thoughts and worrying whether you are developing psychosis.
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