Anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions in the world. Not only do more than 18% of the population struggle with some type of anxiety disorder - far more experience anxiety on a regular basis, and simply do not yet qualify for a diagnosis.
Not all of the signs of anxiety are worry and fear. One of the most common symptoms of anxiety is the appearance of strange thoughts. Those with anxiety have a tendency to suffer from very unusual thoughts that in some cases can actually create anxiety all on their own.
Strange Thoughts From Anxiety?
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Strange Thoughts Are An Anxiety Symptom
Strange thoughts are actually a common anxiety symptom, characterized by several different anxiety disorders. It's first important that you take my anxiety test first to get a better idea of how these symptoms occur and why.
What's interesting about unusual thoughts or thinking is that they can both cause more anxiety and be created by anxiety. In fact, an entire disorder (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is based on what one would call "strange thoughts," although nearly every type of anxiety disorder can have thoughts that someone might deem unusual.
What Are Strange Thoughts?
Strange thoughts are completely subjective, and they refer to any thought that you, yourself, find unusual or strange to you. They're thoughts that surprise you, and thoughts that often cause you to experience more anxiety and stress when you have them.
If the thought felt normal and caused no reaction, you probably wouldn't find it strange. You may find it silly or goofy, but probably not strange. What makes strange thoughts are that they cause you distress, and make you feel like something is wrong with you for the thought. Examples of strange thoughts include:
- Obsessions over something minor, like whether or not you turned off a light.
- Fears over something generally not dangerous, like daily germs or spiders.
- Worries over some aspect of health or wellness that are extremely unlikely.
- Images of yourself doing something unusual or terrible, like violent sexual acts.
But thoughts aren't limited to these ones. They can be thoughts about anything. If they cause you distress and feel unusual, they may be strange thoughts.
Strange thoughts are also almost always recurring as well. Either the exact thought or similar thoughts seem to happen over and over again, and cause you to experience more and more distress each time you experience it. They may occur when you have anxiety, or they occur when nothing happens at all and trigger the anxiety.
Causes of Strange Thoughts
Strange thoughts likely have a lot of different causes, because there are different types of thoughts and different types of disorders. But the most common/likely causes are as follows:
- Brain Chemicals Anxiety changes the chemicals in your brain, called neurotransmitters. Your neurotransmitters are the chemical signals that tell your brain both how to feel and how to think. It's one of the reasons your emotions often feel "right" when they're occurring. Your brain affects your thoughts, and when you have anxiety, often it tends to create thoughts that are going to cause more anxiety.
- Thought Suppression Studies have shown that trying to stop a thought actually increases how often you think about it. It's a phenomenon known as "thought suppression," which is when your mind purposefully reminds you of things that you're trying to forget over and over again, where if you had accepted the thought from the beginning and not found it to be distressing you wouldn't have focused on it.
- Emotional Learning Your brain can also learn based on the way you feel. It's known as "state dependent learning," and your current emotional and physical state becomes a better way to gain memories. It's why they say if you always study right after a coffee, then you should take a test right after a coffee. Your memories are triggered by emotions, and in some cases some thought can be triggered by anxiety.
The key thing to remember is that anxiety is self-sustaining. Its not entirely clear why your body chooses to allow you to have these thoughts as a response to your anxiety symptoms, but they are extremely common, and affect many people with various forms of anxiety.
How to Stop Strange Anxiety Thoughts
Stopping these thoughts is complicated. As long as you continue to deal with anxiety, you're going to continue to suffer from these or similar thoughts. The key is to make sure you're decreasing the effect these thoughts have on you and your reaction to them:
- Be Accountable If you have a thought that causes an action (like a compulsion), have someone around you to stop you from that compulsion and check to prove to you that nothing will go wrong if you avoid the behavior. Having someone to help you through it so that the thought isn't as problematic can help.
- Don't Be Afraid of the Thought Strange anxiety thoughts don't have meaning. Even if they are something terrible, violent, or hurtful, they don't mean anything about you. They're a symptom of anxiety. Don't be afraid of it and try to fight it away. It never works, and often makes the thought worse.
- Write it Down To help you not be afraid of it, you should also consider writing them down. Writing them out can take them out of your head because they're in a permanent place. It also ensures that you're accepting the thoughts and okay with them.
These are of course just the start. The truth is that these strange thoughts occur for a reason - because you have anxiety. So you're going to need to combat your anxiety in order to stop these strange thoughts from happening.
I've helped thousands of those with strange thoughts stop their anxiety with my free 7 minute anxiety test. Take my test now to learn more about how to control your anxiety symptoms forever.
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Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.