Mental-Cognitive Symptoms
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Violent Thoughts: An Anxiety Symptom

Denise Griswold, MSc, LCAS
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.

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