Anxiety is an unusual condition that few people truly understand without experiencing it. Many people mistake anxiety for fear. But anxiety isn't always fear. Anxiety is simply a feared response. Anxiety itself also has dozens of other symptoms that can be confusing, upsetting, and stressful.
Violent thoughts are an example of a stressful fear, and interestingly they're not that uncommon of one. Violent thoughts themselves may not sound like anxiety, but they can be directly related to specific anxiety issues.
Violent Thoughts = Anxiety?
Do you have violent thoughts you can't control? Some types of anxiety cause thought suppression, which makes thoughts come back stronger than before. Our free 7 minute anxiety test can score your anxiety severity, see what type you have, and show you how to control it.
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. Take my free 7 minute anxiety test to get a better understanding of your anxiety tendencies.
Violent thoughts are most common in those with obsessive compulsive disorder, although they may affect anyone with anxiety in some way. Unfortunately, these violent thoughts can be difficult to stop without help, and the reason for that difficulty is because you want to stop them.
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:
- Doing violence against someone else.
- Violent sexual acts.
- Imagining brutality or gore, like a car accident.
These may not seem like they're caused by anxiety, because in a way they're not. But they're also not abnormal. 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 day dreams and accidentally 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, and each time it causes more anxiety. 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 those that try to stop thinking about something actually think about those thoughts more than those that don't care. 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.
That's a big part of the reason that you have recurring violent thoughts - because you're trying not to. The more you try not to have these thoughts, the more you have them, as if your brain wants to remind you 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. That becomes 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 mean anything about you. They can certainly feel that way, especially when you have them too often, but they're just thoughts, and you suffer from a condition (anxiety) that is known to trigger them more for various reasons as described above.
If you want to cure these thoughts, you need to combat your anxiety. Try the following:
- Think On Purpose Think these violent thoughts on purpose for a long period of time. Don't worry if they cause anxiety. Just sit there and think about it more. This will help you get used to the thoughts and become okay with them, rather than try to force them away all the time.
- Write Them Down Similarly, when you have these thoughts, write them down somewhere. Writing thoughts down takes them out of your mind and into a permanent place. Many people find that when they write out thoughts their mind accepts the idea of forgetting them more, and becomes less likely to bring them up.
- Distract Your Senses For at least a while, try not to be alone with your own thoughts. Unfortunately, when you're alone your thoughts are often your enemy, so you need to make sure that you actively keep yourself from spending too much time in quiet with your thoughts. Try to listen to podcasts, go out with friends, stay outdoors, etc. The busier you are, the more of a break you often get from these thoughts (even though they may occur in public).
Still, in the end the most important thing you can do is stop your anxiety. I've helped thousands of people control their anxiety symptoms starting with my free 7 minute anxiety test. If you really want to stop your violent thoughts, you need to make sure you take the test before doing anything else.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.