Those that have never had an anxiety disorder often struggle to understand how many different ways anxiety affects the mind and body. That's because everyone experiences some level of anxiety at some point in their life. Whether it's asking someone out on a date, making a presentation, taking an important test, or getting called into a meeting with the boss, some anxiety is a normal part of life.
But anxiety disorders are very different, particularly with regard to their intensity. Disorders can cause dozens of intense, physical and emotional symptoms that can cause significant disruption to your life, and one of the issues that is very common is the creation of "crazy thoughts."
How Severe Are Your Thoughts?
Anxiety changes your thoughts to make you think that you are losing touch with reality. The more severe the anxiety, the worse it is. Take our free 7 minute anxiety test to receive your anxiety severity score and learn more about your symptoms.
What Makes a Thought "Crazy"?
There are many different types of crazy thoughts with anxiety. It's not just that you suffer from basic worries. There are so many different types of thoughts. Some of them accompany anxiety symptoms (which is why it's so important that you take my free 7 minute anxiety test now) and some of them don't, but all of them are caused by issues with anxiety.
Anything may be considered a crazy thought, because the idea of something being "crazy" is subjective. But examples of crazy thoughts may include:
- Unwanted Images While it's most common in those with obsessive compulsive disorder, all forms of anxiety can experience unwanted thoughts, images, or flashes that are out of their norm. For example, they may imagine someone in an aggressive sexual situation, or they may imagine some form of severe violence. These types of images can be incredibly distressing, but are often caused by anxiety.
- Unprompted Worries Some people with anxiety experience strange worries - worries that may make them feel like something crazy is going on. The worries may be recurrent, or they may be random and strange and make you feel uncomfortable. Worries are a cornerstone of an anxiety disorder, and no matter how weird the worries may be they are still often linked to anxiety.
- Fear of Going Crazy Another form of crazy thought comes from this fear or feeling that you are actually going crazy. Often this happens when the anxiety is so pronounced that it makes your head spin with rapid thoughts that are impossible to control. The fear of going crazy is, by its very nature, a crazy thought, and one that can cause significant problems in your life.
Many things are considered crazy thoughts. What makes them worse is that anxiety makes it much, much harder to forget the thought after you've had it. Once a thought causes you stress, anxiety makes you more likely to continue thinking about it in a way that makes it very hard to stop thinking about it in the future. The more distress your "crazy thought" causes you, the more you are going to keep thinking about it and keep thinking about similar thoughts in the future.
How Forcing Yourself to Stop the Thoughts Creates Them
Another problem that affects those with anxiety is the effects of trying to force a thought out of your mind. Studies have looked at a phenomenon called "thought suppression," which is the act of trying very hard not to think a certain thought.
These studies found that those that attempted to suppress a thought were actually _more likely_ to have the thought than those that didn't care one way or another if they had the thought or not. For one reason or another, the act of trying to make a thought go away makes it more likely to come back and continue to cause you stress.
The Best Way to Avoid the Crazy Thoughts
Crazy thoughts are always going to affect you if you suffer from anxiety. Anxiety changes thought patterns. It alters neurotransmitters and changes behaviors. Thoughts are affected by anxiety, and anxiety is affected by thoughts. The two build on each other in ways that make it harder and harder to control.
Based on what we know about these thoughts, there are several tools that you can attempt to control them. The most important are as follows:
- Don't Fear the Thought Before you even begin, you need to learn not to fear the thought. Your thoughts don't define you, nor do they mean anything about you. The more you try to prevent the thought the more likely you are to have it, and since there is little reason to fear a thought that has no meaning other than being "weird" or "crazy," you need to accept that you have these thoughts and be okay with them, no matter how weird or crazy they may be.
- Creating the Thought Some experts recommend taking that a step further. They recommend actually making yourself think the thought over and over again until you don't find it as stressful. The number one way that psychologists deal with fears is exposing the person to the fear until it no longer causes fear, and you can do the same thing with your thoughts - expose yourself to them on purpose until they no longer bother you.
- Writing it Out Another activity you can try is taking the thought out of your mind by putting it somewhere on paper. Research has shown that writing out your thoughts when they bother you and placing them in some type of permanent place can relax it on your mind. One of the reasons that many people focus on thoughts is because their brain is trying to remember them. Writing the thought out reduces the brain's worry that it will forget.
All of these are useful ways to deal with anxiety produced crazy thoughts. Of course, these are only the first step. You are still going to have these unusual thoughts if you don't learn to control your anxiety, because it's your anxiety that is creating these thoughts in the first place.
I've worked with thousands of people suffering from crazy thoughts in the past, starting with my free 7 minute anxiety test. This test is a great tool for learning more about your anxiety and using the data to try to recommend effective treatments.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.