Mental-Cognitive Symptoms

Violent Thoughts: An Anxiety Symptom

This article has been fact-checked by our medical staff

Fact Checked

by Denise Griswold, MSc, LCAS and Micah Abraham, BSc

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10th, 2020

Violent Thoughts: An Anxiety Symptom

Anxiety can be a confusing condition for those who experience it and can be even more puzzling for those who have not personally experienced it. Many people without a history of anxiety mistake anxiety for fear but anxiety isn't always fear. Anxiety is simply a feared response but may not necessarily be in response to fear-related trigger. Anxiety itself also has dozens of other symptoms that can be confusing, upsetting, and stressful.

Violent thoughts are an example of a stressful symptom, those who experience this symptom may find it comforting to know that this is not an uncommon symptom. Violent thoughts themselves may not sound like anxiety, but they can be directly related to specific anxiety issues.

Violent Thoughts Are Normal Thoughts Gone Wild

The first thing to realize is that violent thoughts don't start as an anxiety symptom, nor do they mean anything about your personality. They're simply thoughts - the same types of thoughts that most people have and forget. Anxiety simply causes issues that bring them out more.

Violent thoughts are most common in those with obsessive compulsive disorder, although they may affect any type of anxiety.

Understanding the Cause of Violent Thoughts

When we talk about these thoughts, we're talking about any thought that one might consider violent. Every person is different, so for some people the thoughts might be:

These may not seem like they're caused by anxiety, because in a way they're not. But they're also not abnormal for those experiencing anxiety. In fact, many people have random flashes of these types of thoughts that they forget so quickly they don't even realize they have them. Imaginations are just that - imaginations. Sometimes a person daydreams and pictures something violent. It happens, and most people forget it.

The problem is that those with anxiety never seem to forget it. In fact, those with anxiety tend to think about them over and over and over. What's interesting is that the main reason this occurs _is because you're trying to forget it_.

Anxiety and Thought Suppression

There is a phenomenon in psychology known as "thought suppression." Studies have shown that people who try to stop thinking about something actually think about those thoughts more than those that don't actively try to stop thinking about it. It's not clear why this occurs, but the brain has a way of reminding you of the things you don't want to think about.

For many this is a big part of the reason that they have recurring violent thoughts - because they're trying not to have these thoughts. The more you try not to have these thoughts, the more you have them, as if your brain wants to remind you of what you're trying to avoid.

Learning and Thoughts

Another issue is simply a type of behavioral learning. Your brain can actually be trained to think things that it associated with other events. For example, when you hear a sad song and start to feel sad, you may miss an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, or think about someone you've lost. You associate the emotion with the person.

This happens with anxiety as well. If these thoughts start to cause you anxiety, then any time you may experience a small amount of anxiety it may trigger these thoughts again. This may become a serious problem for those that are trying to keep their anxiety and their violent thoughts under control.

How to Stop the Violent Thoughts From Anxiety

The first thing to realize is that these thoughts don't make you a violent or otherwise deviant person. It can certainly feel that way, especially when you have them often, but they're just thoughts, and anxiety is known to trigger them more for various reasons as described above.

If you want to stop these thoughts, you need to combat your anxiety. Try the following:

Still, in the end the most important thing you can do is address your anxiety.

Questions? Comments?

Do you have a specific question that this article didn’t answered? Send us a message and we’ll answer it for you!

Ask Doctor a Question


Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient


You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

Ask Doctor a Question

Read This Next

Get advice that’s rooted in medical expertise:

Sign up for our newsletter and get science-backed tips to better manage anxiety and boost your mental health. Nurture yourself with mental health advice that’s rooted in medical expertise.

Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to us via this website may be placed by us on servers located in countries outside of the EU. If you do not agree to such placement, do not provide the information.

This is a highly respected resource Trusted Source

🍪 Pssst, we have Cookies!

We use Cookies to give you the best online experience. More information can be found here. By continuing you accept the use of Cookies in accordance with our Cookie Policy.