Anxiety genuinely affects the way you think. That's one of the reasons that so few people treat it. They have all of these weird thoughts and they feel so natural that they think there is either something wrong with them or that there is nothing wrong at all. Few people actually realize that anxiety changes how you see things and how you view things, and makes them all worse.
So when anxiety starts causing weird thoughts, few people actually get help. Instead, they try to fight the thoughts themselves, and ultimately only make these weird thoughts worse.
Weird Thoughts = Anxiety?
Weird thoughts may simply be thoughts. Many people have unusual day dreams or awkward fantasies, and in general they mean nothing. When these thoughts start controlling your life, that's when anxiety is often the cause. Take my free 7 minute anxiety test to learn more about your anxiety and its solutions.
What Defines a Weird Thought?
The reality is that there are many thoughts that are completely normal - even strange thoughts that make you feel awkward or uncomfortable once in a while. It's not about the thoughts themselves, it's about how they impact your life.
If you're finding that these weird thoughts are causing you significant distress, and often either cause anxiety themselves or occur during periods of anxiety, that's when an anxiety problem is likely. Take my anxiety test to find out more.
Examples of Weird Thoughts
The occasional weird thought doesn't generally cause that much distress. A problem usually occurs when either the thoughts are getting consistently weirder or they're becoming obsessions, where you cannot seem to stop thinking these weird thoughts.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is the most common anxiety disorder with "weird" thoughts, although they can occur in other types of anxiety as well. Many of the thoughts in OCD are generic, such as a fear of contamination (fear of germs). But these aren't necessarily described as "weird" subjectively. They're irrational, and they're often distressing, but they're not weird.
Usually when people start to become concerned over their weird thoughts, it's because the thoughts have become some type of cultural taboo. For example:
- Thoughts of aggressive, violent, or perverse sexual acts.
- Thoughts of assault or murder, especially when gory.
- Thoughts of religious shame, hell, or Satanism.
It's important to remember that "weird" is a subjective quality, so what may be weird for one may not be weird for others. Sometimes the thoughts can be truly strange, such as imagining unusual creatures doing unusual things either during dreams or in real life. But the most common strange thoughts are the ones above.
All weird thoughts and obsessions may be a sign of obsessive compulsive disorder. Often, although not always, those with OCD end up creating compulsions (behaviors that a person feels they "must" do) in order to stop the thoughts from occurring.
These Thoughts Are Caused By Anxiety
There are other disorders that can cause unusual, often unwanted thoughts. Only a psychologist can correctly determine whether or not your thoughts are the result of something other than an anxiety disorder. Psychologists may also look to see if you also have other anxiety symptoms, which are important for an anxiety diagnosis. Take my anxiety test to learn more if you haven't yet.
But if the question is whether or not anxiety can cause weird thoughts, the answer is absolutely yes. Anxiety changes the way you think, causing you to have more negative, and ultimately more unusual thoughts. Anxiety also makes regular weird thoughts more common - many people without anxiety have the occasional weird thought, but those with anxiety tend to focus on those thoughts more, worry about them, and then allow those thoughts to come back.
You Cannot Force Yourself to Stop the Thoughts
Another problem for those with anxiety is that they often want to force themselves to stop thinking those strange thoughts. So they tell themselves to stop thinking about it. Unfortunately, studies have shown that if you try to not have a thought, you're actually more likely to get it again than if you hadn't tried to stop it. You're also more likely to suffer from similar thoughts, because the fear of having the weird thought causes more of them in uncomfortable situations.
Tips to Control Weird Thoughts
Remember that what's weird to one person may not be weird to the next, and you can have weird thoughts without OCD. Panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD and more all may create unusual thoughts and feelings that you weren't expecting.
It's also important to realize that one of the issues that causes these weird thoughts is fear that you'll have them in the first place. Fighting your thoughts is an impossible task - the more you fight them, the worse they'll get, and the more you'll worry about the thoughts occurring (which causes them to occur even more often).
There are some things you can do to reduce the effects of weird thoughts. These include:
Accepting the Thoughts
Your first, mandatory step for controlling these weird thoughts is to accept them. You need to allow yourself to have those thoughts without worrying about what they mean, if you can control them, or what they say about you.
Accept that your thoughts are caused by your anxiety, and they don't mean anything. It doesn't matter how violent, sexual, or genuinely strange the thought is. Anxiety causes all sorts of weird thoughts, and if you want to have any hope of controlling them then you have to come to the realization that they don't mean anything.
The pressure you put on yourself not to have those thoughts is completely counterproductive. Don't worry about the thoughts, and instead find whatever way you can to laugh them off or remind yourself that it's simply a symptom of your disorder.
Over-Thinking On Purpose
Another effective strategy that many people complete with their psychologists is over-thinking the thought. This is a process designed to ensure that the thought causes less fear. Essentially, you purposefully have the thought often until it no longer affects you.
Sit in a room and keep having the thought over and over. Don't worry about it causing anxiety - just let yourself be afraid, and keep thinking about it. Your body will eventually get used to the thought and to the fear, and you won't be as afraid of having the thought or similar thoughts in the future.
Writing the Thought Out Fast
Your brain (especially when you have anxiety) hates the idea of forgetting things. It will focus on thoughts over and over again if it's trying not to forget them, and it will keep you awake at night if it's worried that you'll wake up the next day without remembering what you thought about.
The same thing often occurs with strange thoughts. That's why when you have a weird thought, it's often a good idea to find a place to write it out somewhere. Don't worry about what the thought means or what it says about you. Just write it down so that it's kept in a permanent (but private) place. This will reduce some of the impact the thought has on your memory, and possibly make it less likely for the thought to occur again.
Surefire Solutions for Weird Thoughts From Anxiety
Thoughts are just thoughts - they're not something you can control. That's one of the reasons that so many people find their thoughts distressing and try to stop it. They start to convince themselves that these thoughts mean something and that they must want to have them. Then they feel shame, fear, or embarrassment over these thoughts.
Unfortunately, you simply cannot control your thoughts or stop them from coming back without help. The above strategies should reduce the number of weird thoughts you have or how you respond to them, but you will still need to deal with the underlying issue: your anxiety.
I've helped thousands of people suffering from weird thoughts control their anxiety. You need to first start with my free anxiety test.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.