Many people experience some degree of intrusive thoughts at some point in their lives. For some these thoughts are intermittent, however for others they are a constant reality. Oftentimes intrusive thoughts become the driving force for people to use drugs and alcohol in the first place. They can also be an after effect for those in recovery. 

While struggling with intrusive thoughts may seem unending, there are ways you can significantly reduce their harmful effects. By exploring your options and learning, you can overcome this challenge in your life. Remaining optimistic can be vital to gaining growth and lasting change.


How Do Intrusive Thoughts Impact Recovery?

Difficult emotions and thoughts can be very troubling to deal with when you are trying to maintain sobriety. Without proper coping tools, these unnerving thoughts and emotions can begin to drive your actions and responses. Intrusive  thoughts can be especially dangerous for those in recovery because they can affect your mental state and serve as a filter for how you view the world around you. 

Intrusive thoughts can have so much power and influence over your decisions. Sometimes these can be so negative and consuming that they convince you that you are not capable of living a healthy, happy life. This then could lead to the possibility of a potential relapse if not addressed properly.


You Have Options to Overcome Intrusive Thoughts

While dealing with intrusive thoughts can be overwhelming and even discouraging, know that you have multiple options from which to seek help. These options include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This treatment modality  addresses unhelpful thought patterns, as well as how to form new ways of thinking by forming, creating and practicing new mental patterns. It also teaches better coping mechanisms for dealing with intrusive thoughts. 
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): DBT is a treatment modality that was derived from CBT. It was designed to help people live in the present moment, regulate their emotions, and cope with stress in a healthy way. Divided into four sections, it focuses on teaching core mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness and emotional regulation. 
  • Acceptance & commitment therapy (ACT): For this particular treatment modality, the focus is gaining more psychological flexibility in one’s everyday life. ACT focuses on using various mindfulness and acceptance strategies, coupled with commitment and behavior change strategies. It is highly effective for teaching people how their own inner worlds sabotage them and how to prevent this.
  • Motivational interviewing: Similar to one-on-one talk therapy, motivational interviewing involves the individual and a trained professional. A typical session consists of open dialogue between the two, while the therapist/professional listens, affirms, clarifies, asks questions and may even share more information to help change the participant’s mindset. This can also be a wonderful tool for someone struggling with intrusive thoughts because it addresses a person’s direct issues head-on with a trained professional.


Turn Negative Intrusive Thoughts into Positive Ones

Most importantly during this time, try to remain optimistic. It is important to believe that even though things may be difficult right now, there is still hope. There is hope that you can find assistance and are fully capable of working through difficult times. To try and remind yourself of this hope, here are some things you can do:

  • Listen to music: Music is powerful, especially when it comes to recovery. Give your favorite song a listen, or even put it on repeat for 20 minutes or so. Listen to songs that have moved you to tears and filled you up with hope, love and joy in the past. Ask your friends and/or family for their favorite inspirational songs to listen to when you feel beat down by your intrusive thoughts. Pop in some headphones during these times and let the hope fill you up with the reminder that these difficulties are temporary.
  • Go out in nature: Spend some quality time with Mother Nature by taking a walk, going on a hike, swimming or even just sitting in the grass. Doing so can give you peace and serve as a reminder of the natural wonders in the world. It can serve as proof that the world really is amazing, and that you are also a part of its wonder and splendor. 
  • Watch a movie: If you love getting lost in stories and metaphors, consider watching inspirational movies to give you hope. Sometimes watching other people deal with difficult struggles in their lives can help remind you that struggles are a natural part of life, but that you can absolutely come out the other side of it. Movies can also communicate that getting through difficult times can make you stronger.


Not only are intrusive thoughts highly influential, but they are also sneaky. Even though they are common, they can be highly damaging as well. While in recovery, it can be easy to neglect the attention to intrusive thoughts. However, doing so could potentially lead to relapse if not addressed and treated properly. At Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford in New Jersey, we want to remind you that there is always hope. Our staff is committed to giving the best care you need during this time. We have a variety of treatment modalities to choose from so that you can find one that fits you the best. Call us today to learn more at (877) 557-5372.