Intrusive Thoughts

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Health Assured team

27 January 2022

When dealing with conditions like intrusive thoughts, it can be difficult to provide the right help.

From time to time, nearly all people will have experienced unwanted thoughts. And most can be harmless and fleeting.

But sometimes, they can leave people thinking, ‘what if my intrusive thoughts are real?’. And it’s here where they can become concerning symptoms for psychological conditions.

As an employer, you have a legal and moral duty to care for your staff’s health and wellbeing.

If you neglect an employee with mental health issues, you could face discrimination claims–leading to business disruption and costly penalties.

Read all about intrusive thoughts, whether it’s considered as a mental illness, and how to beat intrusive thoughts at work.

What are intrusive thoughts?

Intrusive thoughts are normal thoughts that can become stuck in a person’s mind. They can come without warning and have no real meaning.

In the workplace, common intrusive thoughts can be, thinking you’re inadequate to complete a task; or being fearful of tripping during a presentation.

But sometimes, thoughts can be so intense, it’s hard to think about anything else. When you give them power, they manifest into something formidable.

What causes intrusive thoughts?

There is no direct root or a singular action that causes these thoughts. Unwanted intrusive thoughts can come and go. But the impact can reoccur often and last longer–and it’s here where people are affected more.

In some medical situations, it can relate to underlying mental health conditions, like OCD or ADHD. And even physical health issues like Parkinson’s Disease or dementia.

Illnesses and conditions are nothing to be ashamed of. However, it is important to seek medical advice on how to cope with intrusive thoughts.

How long do intrusive thoughts last?

The time it takes for these thoughts to pass depends on individual circumstances. Sometimes they can come and go in seconds. Other times, they can reoccur so often, they last for years.

Here, you need to recognise intrusive thoughts occur in everyday life. And they are harmless unless you act on them.

Are intrusive thoughts a mental illness?

Depending on the level of harm or distress, these thoughts can class as a mental health illness.

Intrusive thoughts can count as a symptom for mental health when it starts to affect everyday activities or relationships.

Many people don’t seek medical help, despite these thoughts being common occurrence. This is mainly due to the stigma of having a mental health condition

How to improve mental health with an EAP


Different types of intrusive thoughts in medical conditions

Although these thoughts can be experienced by anyone, the symptoms are what defines their influence. These will vary from individual people living in individual medical circumstances.

Here are different types of intrusive thoughts in medical conditions:

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

People with OCD are commonly diagnosed with intrusive thoughts symptoms. Obsessions can cause you to repeat actions (compulsions) in the attempt to stop the thoughts.

For example, an unwanted thought might be worrying about not wearing PPE properly. An employee might create a routine, where they repeatedly putting on and taking off their PPE.

Coping with OCD intrusive thoughts can halt everyday life activities, like starting work tasks within a reasonable amount of time.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

People living with PTSD commonly suffer from intrusive thoughts connected to trauma.

These traumas can trigger both mental and physical medical symptoms, like flashbacks of intrusive thoughts, anxiety attacks, and tremors.

Bipolar disorder

When it comes to disorders like bipolar, intrusive thoughts are a common diagnosis.

People with bipolar disorder are said to have irregular moods. Here, unwanted thoughts can come from triggers that set off extreme emotions.

Coping methods, like counter-switching, can help individuals avoid falling into deeper states of emotions.

How to deal with intrusive thoughts in the workplace

Under the Equality Act (2010), it’s your duty to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of your employees.

When it comes to mental health conditions, they can cause havoc on a person’s daily activities. And signs of long-term illness can legally be defined as a disability. So, if a worker expresses that they need help on how to stop intrusive thoughts, you must act on it.

Here are some ways to help employees suffering from intrusive thoughts:

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for intrusive thoughts

CBT or ‘talk therapy’ allows you to share concerns with a mental health professional. Through these sessions, therapists can help employees highlight triggers and show them healthier coping methods.

Medication for intrusive thoughts

After a diagnosis from a doctor or medical expert, employees can be provided medication. These are especially common for conditions like, OCD or depression relating to intrusive thoughts.

Doctors can either take physical examinations, psychological assessments, or both. Through their diagnosis, they may prescribe treatment (like therapy) or medicine (like antidepressants).

Self-care for intrusive thoughts

One of the best methods for managing intrusive thoughts are recognising them as they are. Most are just momentary thoughts–obsessing over intrusive thoughts is what makes them harmful and serious.

Through self-care, employees can reduce stress and fears which lead to negative intrusive thoughts.

Get expert guidance on intrusive thoughts with Health Assured

If employees raise issues on working with health issues, like unwanted thoughts, you must respond with care and support.

You’re not required to fully heal their medical conditions. But you are legally bound to help them manage them during their work.

If you neglect them, you risk facing legal claims and costly fines–leading to hefty impacts to your business production and reputation.

What is the best way to support employees with mental health issues?

Our Employee Assistance Programme provides guidance and supports your employees with their mental health in the workplace and in life. We can help you create a safe, productive workspace that supports all.

We support employees mental wellbeing with any problems they might be facing in their professional or personal lives with our 24-hour counselling helpline.

Did you know that every £1 invested in an employee assistance programme, organisations can expect to see, on average a 10x return on investment.

Find out more about EAPs



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