The Architecture of Anxiety and Intrusive Thoughts

Many of my clients suffer from the hell-realm of intrusive or unwanted thoughts. Thoughts like, “What if I’m a pedophile?” or “What if I’m a mass murderer?” or “What if I contract a deadly disease?” or “What if I don’t love my partner enough (or at all)?” parade through their brains day and night without reprieve creating a state of perpetual misery. The irony about people who are prone to intrusive thoughts such as these is that they’re among the most gentle, loving, sensitive, kind, creative, and thoughtful people you’ll ever meet. The thought is so far from reality that it’s almost laughable, except that it’s not funny at all because my clients believe the lie which, of course, creates massive amount of anxiety.

Or maybe it’s not ironic at all. Perhaps it’s precisely because of this high level of sensitivity and empathy that their mind has gravitated toward an alarming thought as a way to try to avoid the intensity of feeling with which they respond to life. Highly sensitive people were once highly sensitive children, which means their nervous systems were wired at birth to respond to the sights, sounds, and experiences of life at amplified levels. And because most highly sensitive children were raised by parents who had no idea how to teach their kids to value and feel their difficult feelings in a manageable way, they learned early in life to try to control the external world as a way to attempt to manage their inner one.

Lately I’ve been using a model with my clients that helps them conceptualize the formation of anxiety and the addiction of intrusive thoughts. I call it the A-B-C model and it goes like this:

  • A. A difficult or “unwanted” feeling arises: fear, grief, vulnerability, loneliness, helplessness, doubt, uncertainty
  • B. You push the feeling away and resist it because you think you shouldn’t be feeling this way, that you’re “too much” or “too emotional”, and/or you can’t handle the feeling.
  • C. You attach on to an intrusive thought as a way to cover up or avoid the difficult feeling, thereby creating the illusion of control. Now you can focus on the thought, “What if I have a terminal illness,” instead of attending to the initial feeling.

Not all of my clients are highly sensitive, and not all of them have been lifelong sufferers of anxiety. In fact, many of my engaged clients suffering from engagement anxiety tell me that this is the first time they’ve ever experienced anxiety to this degree. But the same model applies:

  • A. A feeling of fear, uncertainty, vulnerability and/or grief hits somewhere near the proposal (when the relationship turns from serious to very serious). Or perhaps it’s been there nearly the entire relationship – or as soon as the initial infatuation stage or free-ride wore off.
  • B. The judgement or resistance pushes it away with a thought like, “You shouldn’t be feeling this way. You just got engaged. You should be happy.”
  • C. The control-ego-fear mind dangles down a thought-vine like, “You don’t really love him” or “This must mean that you’re making a mistake” that will tempt you to take hold as way to try to have control over an out-of-control experience or avoid the initial pure feeling that you don’t know is normal and manageable.

Once you take hold of the seductive thought-vine, you’re on your way down the black hole of anxiety. The further you go down the hole, the darker it gets and the harder it becomes to find your way back out to the light of day.

I know how difficult it is to re-train your mind so that you can learn to attend to the core feeling as it arises without attempting to control in some way. It seems that some people – if not everyone – are born with a natural inclination to try to avoid what’s hard by controlling something external or latching onto a thought-vine. I see it in my own kids: when they’re tired, hungry, or the situation feels emotionally unmanageable, they’ll try to control someone or something external. In fact, it’s one of my highest goals as a parent to teach my kids that they can handle their difficult feelings, that feelings are just feelings and that they will always pass through, and that trying to control circumstances as a way to avoid the feeling never works: the feeling is still there, but now it’s buried behind a layer of control.

So after 20 or 30 years of this, a deeply ingrained habit is etched into the brain that starts with the false belief of, “I can’t handle difficult feelings.” The work is to learn how to soften into the fear so that it breaks open to reveal the soft underbelly of grief that has lived inside for so long. As Elizabeth Lesser quotes Chogyam Trungpa in her beautiful book, Broken Open: How Difficult Times Help Us Grow:

“Going beyond fear begins when we examine our fear: our anxiety, concern, nervousness, and restlessness. If we look into our fear, if we look beneath the veneer, the first thing we find is sadness, beneath the nervousness. Nervousness is cranking up, vibrating all the time. When we slow down, when we relax with our fear, we find sadness, which is calm and gentle. Sadness hits you in your heart, and your body produces a tear. Before you cry there is a feeling in your chest and then, after that, you produce tears in your eyes. You are about to produce rain or  waterfall in your eyes and you feel sad and lonely and perhaps romantic all at the same time. This is the first tip of fearlessness, and the first sign of real warriorship. You might think that, when you experience fearlessness, you will hear the opening to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony or see a great explosion in the sky, but it doesn’t happen that way. Discovering fearlessness comes from working with the softness of the human heart.” (p. 37)

If you can understand the alarming thoughts as a flare sent up from the Inner Child to try to get your attention, you will learn to slow down and listen. Your Inner Child doesn’t always know how to say, “I’m hurting. Please pay attention to me,” so he or she sends out a jarring thought because she knows it will get your attention. Once you start to pay attention to your feelings and trust that you can handle your emotional experiences, the intrusive thoughts begin to diminish. Again, the thoughts are a distraction, a first-layer attention-getter designed to force you to turn inside and attend to your inner world. Thus, when you’re perseverating on an anxious thought, the question to ask yourself is, “What am I trying to control, avoid, or fill up?” or “What is this thought trying to protect me from feeling?” and see if you can connect to the softness of the human heart, knowing that what you find when you bring your loving attention to the quiet places is always, always, a pearl.

 

90 comments to The Architecture of Anxiety and Intrusive Thoughts

  • Liliana

    Hey there Sheryl

    I recently stumbled upon your blog and it has helped me a lot though I feel like maybe I might not relate since I am nowhere near engaged but I was hoping you would be able to somehow help me in some way .. A couple of months ago I met a man and at first I saw him as a friend but overtime I realized that he was honestly amazing so we took the next step and began a relationship a month after being in the relationship I started getting anxiety attacks. That maybe I did not like him or that I should run away, but I have stayed because this man is sweet, loving and has all the qualities that I would like in my future husband. When I think about marrying him I get happy, but I am scared that I might run away from this, and I honestly do not want that. When my anxiety spikes and tells me that I should leave, I say to it “no, I want to be with him.” I feel as if my heart is guarding itself. I have gone through heartbreaks, my parents are not really the happiest couple, and through a childhood trauma. When my anxiety is really high I think to myself that maybe leaving is for the best, but that’s not what I want. What I want is to be fully happy with him and love him without having these constant thoughts.

  • StephanieG

    Hi Liliana,
    Just saw your comment. You should join the e-course! I am not engaged yet either but going through the same anxiety you described and it set in VERY early into the relationship. There are hundreds of us on the e-course and forum.

  • SB

    I found this poem and thought of this wonderful website. It is written by Robert T. Weston.

    Cherish your doubts, for doubt is the handmaiden of truth.
    Doubt is the key to the door of knowledge; it is the servant of discovery.
    A belief which may not be questioned binds us to error,
    for there is incompleteness and imperfection in every belief.
    Doubt is the touchstone of truth; it is an acid which eats away the false.
    Let no man fear for the truth, that doubt may consume it;
    for doubt is a testing of belief.
    The truth stands boldly and unafraid; it is not shaken by the testing;
    For truth, if it be truth, arises from each testing stronger, more secure.
    He that would silence doubt is filled with fear;
    the house of his spirit is built on shifting sands.
    But he that fears no doubt, and knows its use, is founded on a rock.
    He shall walk in the light of growing knowledge;
    the work of his hands shall endure.
    Therefore let us not fear doubt, but let us rejoice in its help:
    It is to the wise as a staff to the blind; doubt is the handmaiden of truth.

  • I LOVE this, SB. What a refreshing alternative to the widespread “doubt versus don’t” mantra touted by this culture (and which I’ll be posting about this week). Thank you very much for sharing this here.

  • melanie

    I just wanted to add my 2p worth! There is a lot about ‘when you are peaceful and calm, that is when a voice of knowing and not fear speaks to you’ etc and specifically ‘that is when you find the pearl’. I just wanted to say that i had been with my boyf for 7 years, very committed, very serious, then as i graduated uni and we were due to buy a house (not imminently, but in the next 18-24 months) i started a new job and just got hit by total anxiety. Not about leaving uni, or getting a new job (truly, i couldnt wait to leave uni – hadnt lived there – and was very excited about having a new job and money) but specifically about whether he was the right one for me or not. I hadn’t had anxiety like that ever, i couldnt breathe, felt dizzy etc. when i was with him and we were ‘hanging out’ i felt OK but doubts still very much there. After trying to have a break and then breaking up and getting back together, i found that in moments of true calm such as being in the bath at mine, on my own, or lying in bed at night on my own, the answer which calmed me was not to be with him even though the thought of being on my own genuinely terrfied me. And, 8 months down the line, was it the ‘right’ decision? Who knows. I don’t believe I will love anyone else like i loved him, and im certainly not currently interested or looking for anything. However – from the moment i called it off i have been able to breather and generally function. I suppose people might say i will get the same thing with who i am next with – and maybe i will. My parents got divorced young so i know i crave security – however i pushed through the fear. I’m not writing this to get people’s anxiety levels up – but just to offer the thought that if you consistently, in a place of calm, feel that its not right, perhaps you should listen to that.

    • Thanks for sharing your story. I have no doubt that it will spike a lot of anxiety from my audience, but I decided to approve your comment anyway so we could engage in some dialogue, if you’re willing! The question for me is whether you did, indeed, push through the fear, or if you ended up listening to the fear and left a good, loving relationship because your commitment and intimacy issues were triggered. Fear’s entire mission in life is try to convince you to run, so an alternate analysis of what happened for you is that once you left (thereby listening to fear), you could breathe and function because the fear of intimacy was removed. Were there any red flags in the relationship? When you say “it wasn’t right”, what exactly wasn’t right about the relationship (other than your anxiety)?

      • DCS

        I must say this post has absolutely terrified me. I sometimes get the thoughts that I can’t see my future with my husband when I am feeling calm and that I need to leave and I don’t feel anxiety I just feel emotionless. This makes me think that there is some truth in the thoughts if they don’t make me anxious every time. I’m so tired of all this, I just want to be happy with him like I was before.

        • Fear-based thoughts don’t always create anxiety. It’s one of the sneakiest tactics of the Wounded Self to throw a thought into your brain that creates a calm response. If you shift out of your head and move into your heart, you’ll find a different response there. Also, the thought that you can’t see a future with your husband is one of the most common thoughts of the anxiously engaged. In fact, there’s a thread on this exact thought on the e-course forum that someone started today. .

  • Bill

    Do the feelings of “What if I dont love them” and hiding and burying those feelings mean that we dont love them or just our anxiety speaking up and trying to mess with our thoughts?

  • Bill

    Could the deeper fear be growing up with a sibiling that has a terminal illness?

  • Bill

    Could%20the%20deeper%20fear%20be%20growing%20up%20with%20a%20sibiling%20that%20has%20a%20terminal%20illness%3F

  • Yes, that would connect to a fear of loss, and probably ambivalent feelings if your sibling received more attention because of the illness.

  • Bill

    Makes sense. She has been in and out of the hospital our entire lifes and it definetly was a huge strain on our family. Your site has been a god send for me because I was really struggling with the “What if I dont love her” stuff and I still am but on a smaller scale. Im getting married in 10 days and Im on the right track. Once the honeymoon is over with I plan on getting into the E-Course stuff. Thanks for your response.

  • ScottishBride

    I just want to chime in here and say I did not spike at Melanie’s comment and I hope others don’t either.

    Melanie – I understand where you are coming from. I had a previous relationship where I had 2 bouts of anxiety but also a deep sense of knowing it had no future. The deep sense of knowing was very different from the anxiety. When I compare that to the recent engagement hell I have been through, well… it is very different. With my now husband, I had a deep sense of knowing it was RIGHT until we got engaged. Then I had every emotion from it being right, to wrong, to confusing, scary, crazy, miserable. There is a very clear distinction in my mind between the two relationships.

    This work is NOT about convincing ourselves to stay in relationships for the sake of it. It is about finding out about ourselves and our views on life and love. I had horrendous anxiety when I got engaged but I worked through it and I am very happily married. I may well see that anxiety come back again tomorrow, next week, next month. If I do, I’ll take a deep breath and I’ll deal with it. Right now I know that I am where I am supposed to be. With my wonderful man. And THAT is my sense of knowing. It took a lot of work to get to this point.

    Melanie – you are right to point out that at times the “right” thing to do is leave. The bottom line is that we all have a choice in this. We can choose to stay and we can choose to go. Sometimes the relationship is not “right” for us and in that situation maybe we should move on (but I would encourage anyone doubting their relationship to please only make that decision from a place of consistent peace and clarity).

    Sometimes the fear is just too big to cope with. Unfortunately in those situations, we may well find ourselves moving on without really knowing why or what happened. It makes me sad typing that but I acknowledge that this can happen. In some ways this happened to me with my ex. The anxiety freaked me out and pushed me away from him. Luckily, there were also red flags/deep sense of knowing so it is perhaps not a bad thing that my anxiety contributed towards the demise of an unhappy relationship. However, with my husband when the anxiety hit after I got engaged it was even stronger because there were no red flags or deep sense of knowing it was wrong. I was completely at a loss to what was raging inside of me. I felt like I was dying. I couldn’t run this time (despite wanting to). I had to sit with it and work through it.

    When you are ready to date again I wish you all the best! Whatever happens, please remember that IF you feel the anxiety coming back on Date 1, or Date 900, you know where we all are. It can be fixed (with a lot of work and courage!). Indeed for me, it took the anxiety coming back a second time with a different person (where I had no red flag or deep calm sense of knowing to pin it on) for me to realise that this was not about my other half, but something deeply rooted inside of me.

  • Janelle

    SB- I always love your posts : ) I will say that I got a little bit spiked by it though- and don’t worry…I’m okay with that :) One of the lines that spiked me was: “With my now husband, I had a deep sense of knowing it was RIGHT until we got engaged. Then I had every emotion from it being right, to wrong, to confusing, scary, crazy, miserable.”

    For those of you who are reading this, I’m also a conscious married and I’ve been married for about 2 years : ) SB and I are buddies on the forum, lol : ) The reason why that spiked me was because I’m not sure if I ever had that deep sense of knowing. For God sakes, the week before my husband proposed, I said to myself “if he says one more ‘mean thing’ to me, I’m breaking up with him”. Little did I know, he had already brought my ring and would be proposing one week later on vacation with my family, lol! Now, I definitely thought throughout our 7 years of dating that we’d get married- but I thought that about every guy I was ever with. Even the guy that beat me up in high school : ( My husband was the opposite of any guy I had ever dated though. I remember in college, my friends would all talk about how they were going to marry their boyfriends, but I would never say it. I remember thinking, ‘if I start telling people we’ll get married one day, then I’ll jinx it, and I don’t want to do that.’ I guess, I was just always cautious of “oh god, I don’t ever want to loose him”. I’m not sure that it’s possible for me to have a ‘complete knowing’ that it’s right. But, I also don’t have any knowing that it’s wrong. I’d say it’s about 90-95% good overall and that’s just on my ‘blah’ day today. I believe Sheryl or someone said “shoot for 80%”. I can go from feeling 90-95% in the morning to 45% in the afternoon to 82.5% (lol) at bedtime. I had to get use to those fluctuations in my mood for a while. For me, I ‘know’ I made a good choice (on most days I feel that way). However, somedays I am moody and I just want to hide in a hole.

    My husband and I are great of each other. We respect, love, encourage, and are always there for each other. Yes, we drive each other crazy, but at the end of the day (and throughout everyday), we choose each other, we choose be together, for better or worse we have each other’s best interest at heart and each other’s backs : ) We don’t choose each other based on our feelings, we choose each other based on the commitment we made and I plan on choosing him for the rest of my life <3

  • Janelle: It sounds like you soothed your own spike. Great job showing up with your Loving Adult and modeling it for everyone here : ).

  • And Janelle, if more people admitted this, we would see a lot less relationship/marriage anxiety:

    “I can go from feeling 90-95% in the morning to 45% in the afternoon to 82.5% (lol) at bedtime. I had to get use to those fluctuations in my mood for a while.”

    Thank you, as always, for your honesty.

  • Scottish Bride

    Hi Janelle :-) When I look back at my “deep sense of knowing” it was actually based on very superficial feelings. I suppose it was more infatuation and desperately wanting to tie myself to him forever because I wanted that feeling to last forever. We hadn’t been together that long so we were still riding on that “in love” wave.

    I think maybe the biggest reason for my engagement anxiety was that it came at the turning point of my relationship – when it went from “in” love to “real” love. I stopped having the “infatuation” feelings so I didnt know if I did want to marry him because all I’d associated marriage with up until that point was getting to feel that infatuation forever!! I had never even considered such concepts as “shared values, shared goals, friendship” etc. Can you believe that?! Wow just goes to show how naive I was.

    Now that I know what real love feels like, I can say exactly the same as you. I have days/hours/minutes of contentment/knowing its a great marriage and i also have days/hours/minutes of: what am I doing, can I do this, am I ok, this feels weird and wrong.

    Basically one of the biggest lessons for me has been re-programming myself to see what love actually is and to see the benefits that real love brings. It took me a long time to see that but now that I am, it’s very rewarding and worth all this pain!

  • Janelle

    Hey SB : ) I dated my husband for 7 years before our engagement. Once we got married I still had to do major work in the love department. I’m still doing major work about my ‘idea’ of love. I don’t think it’s crazy that you didn’t consider those grown up things like shared values, goals, friendship,etc. I think that the only shared value that I really considered was that we both wanted a family and wanted our family to be raised the same way. If I’m honest with myself (and probably lots of women are like this) I was so in love with the idea of being in love. I don’t think that this is a ‘bad’ thing now, however, I’m def. learning a lot now. I really think that it takes getting married to learn about real love. I use to try and ‘change’ things about my husband. Sometimes, I still find myself trying to change things about him. That’s not right, it’s not fair to him or to me. Marriage has really allowed me to take a really good look at him (good and bad parts) and completely love him for all of it. Does it drive me crazy if he says a rude comment? Yes, for sure, but I’m not trying to change that about him anymore. I now look at what he really means behind the rude comment, most of the time, he doesn’t even realize he’s being rude. For example, when we are with my in-laws nothing he does ever bothers me. However, he is the same person around my family, he’ll say the same thing, and I flip out…pretty interesting : ) Sorry for the babble….hope someone can take something from this : )

  • jessica

    So i just read the part, “A. A difficult or “unwanted” feeling arises: fear, grief, vulnerability, loneliness, helplessness, doubt, uncertainty
    B. You push the feeling away and resist it because you think you shouldn’t be feeling this way, that you’re “too much” or “too emotional”, and/or you can’t handle the feeling.
    C. You attach on to an intrusive thought as a way to cover up or avoid the difficult feeling, thereby creating the illusion of control. Now you can focus on the thought, “What if I have a terminal illness,” instead of attending to the initial feeling.”

    I understand it but how do you deal with the initial feeling? I will have the most horrible intrusive thoughts and feelings, either one can come first but the thoughts make me feel weird and strange like i’m a freak or something and vise versa i can feel like that without the intrusive thoughts so i want to know what causes the initial feelings and how to deal with them? Or how to make the thoughts stop?

    • You make the thoughts stop by dealing with the core feelings. How do you deal with the feeling? You learn a process like Inner Bonding, which will teach you to distinguish between core feelings of life and wounded feelings brought on by what you’re telling yourself. You can learn more about Inner Bonding here: http://www.innerbonding.com

  • Denise

    Having read through the comments above, I have a couple of questions:
    1. What does a good relationship mean?
    2. How do you know when it’s the “right” time to leave?
    3. How can you exactly distinguish the “emotionless” state when fear is in control and the “peace and clarity” state in which there is no fear involved? Assuming that you can see a future with your partner/future husband, but when he says things like “I love you so much. You’re my sunshine etc.” and you don’t feel like saying those things back, what does it mean? Does it mean that you are so identified with the the thoughts of “What if I’m making a mistake?”, “What if there’s someone better for me out there?”, “What if I don’t love him anymore?” and so on that you can’t say them back naturally because of that?

  • Jenny L

    Hello,
    I need help. My husband and I have been together for two years and recently gave birth to our beautiful and perfect son. However, my husband is suffering from severe anxiety and a form of OCD called pure-o. He obsesses over these thoughts he has, exactly like you wrote about. He is constantly worrying about the “what ifs”, what if he goes crazy, has a mental disease, becomes schizophrenic, hurts me or our son. It is tormenting him completely. The life in his eyes is gone and his intense appetite disappears completely when this comes on. It lasts for days, recently weeks. It started for him being scared and worrying he had a heart disorder years ago. The recent thoughts were sparked from a nightmare he had of a family member going crazy and hurting other family members. Ever since he’s been terrified that will happen to him and he will hurt us. What kills me is seeing him like he is because he’s such an amazing, kind, and absolutely wonderful man who wouldn’t hurt a soul, and I can’t assure him enough he’s not ever going to go crazy. The thoughts are too intense. I would give anything to take this upon myself so he could finally breathe and enjoy being a newlywed and a father. He puts so much effort into controlling the thoughts but after so long they get the best of him. Please help me be the best support system for him. We are trying to find a hobby together and a way to keep us busy. I want him to know I will never let him deal with this on his own. I need some tips and advice. Thank you so much!

    • As you can tell from this article, there really aren’t quick tips for dealing with intrusive thoughts. Your husband would have to be willing to dig deep inside to excavate the root causes of his anxiety which are manifesting now as intrusive thoughts. If you email me directly, I’m happy to speak with you more about this and give you information about my Skype/phone counseling sessions.

    • Joseph

      It is a relief that I am not the only person that has these intrusive thoughts. It wasn’t until a month ago that I learned about intrusive thoughts and how they affect the mind and body. I have been having them off and on for the last 14 years. I have similar thoughts as your husband Jenny and I am tired of having thses fears and anxiety attacks. I have always been an emotional person person but also have been doing everything in my power to ignore these thoughts and emotions and “man up”. I work as a firefighter and after some of the things I have seen on the job my thoughts seem to spike. My wife and I are expecting our first kid and I think some of the stress and worrying about ” what if’s cause more spikes. Thank you for sharing your story because I always felt something was wrong with me and I was a bad person. Please let your husband know he is not alone and I also am glad to hear you support him during the tough times. Thanks again.

  • Liana Jolley

    I was finding comfort in knowing its not just me by myself who doubts and worries about their marriage. My husband is a good man not perfect and neither am I but we get along well. I just hate when I get anxiety when he is really sweet n I cannot embrace it :( it makes my anxiety worse. I fear going to Hell for being with him if I don’t LOVE him. I don’t know how to be relaxed n just know he is a good man. I could cry with the overwhelming sensations anxirty gives me

    • You’re far from alone, Liana. Please continue reading through my site and you’ll see what I mean. There’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with you for not being able to reciprocate his love; it’s a result of your own fears, and they would come up with any available partner.

  • In Pain

    I am so relieved to find this website. I have been married for almost 4 years to a wonderful man. I had absolutely zero doubts when we got married, and had never felt so happy and at peace in my entire life. We met when I was 22 and got married when I was 23. I’m 27 now, and we just suffered a miscarriage in December. Since then, my OCD and anxiety (I hope) have convinced me that we miscarried because we are not meant to be together. I cannot stop obsessing over the “what-ifs.” I am constantly worrying, “What if we got married to young/soon? What if I don’t love him anymore? What if we get a divorce? What if we were never meant to be? What if I hurt him?” I then feel guilty being around him because I feel like I am lying and hiding this from him. I am so scared and these thoughts consume me all day every day. I am triggered when I hear the word divorce, stories about people breaking up, or even sad songs. They all result in me thinking “Is that us? Is that going to be us?” I try to challenge these thoughts and remind myself that it’s my anxiety, but then I worry that I’m just making excuses to hide or ignore how I truly feel. I worry that I don’t know who I am and how am I ever going to “find myself” while I’m married. I worry that I could be happier on my own or that I’m never going to be happy. I have an amazing husband who loves me dearly and who I love and would die for. I just can’t shake this feeling/fear that we are going to end up getting a divorce and that I no longer love him. It really is all I can think about.

    • The what-ifs and anxiety are a protection against the grief of miscarrying and possibly other losses that you’ve never processed. When you drop down into your heart and feel the core feelings, the obsessions will diminish.

    • Brianna

      I feel your pain! I’ve thought the exact same thing. It is all I think about too. Even thinking of my boyfriend and I gets me anxious! I don’t know why because I love him!

  • In Pain

    Thank you, Sheryl. I’m so used to being able to share all my struggles and fears with my husband, that I feel especially alone with this particular case (I haven’t shared any of these “what if” and divorce fears with him). It is nice to be reassured that I am not crazy or abnormal for feeling these things. I just wish I could enjoy my life and stop living in such fear and anxiety. Two days ago I pretty much convinced myself that my marriage was over and felt like I was already starting the grieving process of a divorce.

  • Teresa

    I’m relieved to have found this thread. I stumbled on it when searching for intrusive thought management. I suffer from anxiety and depression. I see a therapist and psychiatrist 2-3 times a month to manage and control it. It helps to know that I’m not alone. That’s something I don’t get from therapy. When I’m there, I am being “treated”. I really wish I could find an online support group for this. If anyone is interested, please let me know. I have been going through pretty bad ups and downs lately.

    • Hi Teresa: Your timing is interesting as I’ve been considering starting a drop-in weekly or bi-weekly phone support group. If you’re interested, please email me directly and I’ll keep you posted about it.

  • Leanne

    Coming across this web page has given me a little hope. My anxiety is out of control and the new thing that has come with it is intrusive thoughts. I have not found anyone who has been able to start my healing, but your A B C approach and the whole control thing makes sense. I know I am not a bad person but I can’t wrap my head around why I think bad things about the people I love. I am a highly sensitive person who can feel other peoples pain and worry so that doesn’t help either.

    • I’m glad you found your way here. My entire site and courses are filled with highly sensitive people who struggle with intrusive thoughts, so you’re in good company : ).

  • Erin

    Hi. I’ve been dealing with a lot of anxiety lately. I’m in an awesome relationship with a great guy, but lately I have been thinking about my ex boyfriend a lot and thinking that maybe I still love him. We have been broken up for 5 years and he has been engaged twice. It never bothered me because there were a lot of red flags in our long distance relationship and I knew ending things was right with him since we fight all the time and broke up off and on a lot. He recently contacted me when his least engagement ended and my mind started going crazy thinking about him. This it’s ruining my relationship with my current boyfriend and I just want to be happy with him get our indigent plans back on track and have a clear mind again. Please help me understand what is going on.

    • You’re suffering from classic relationship anxiety: your fear-self trying to circumvent the possibility of loss by trying to convince you to leave. The wounded self likes to attach on to exes, especially when there were a lot of red flags!

  • Erin

    Engagement not indigent plans…

  • Brianna

    Sheryl, even when the anxiety goes away I still have negative thoughts and feelings. I know they only came because of the anxiety, but when the anxiety is away I still question being with him, if I want to be single or not, etc. Then I’ll think about how I want things back to the way they were before the anxiety. I use to wake up everyday happy and in love and then once the anxiety hit that disappeared. I’m still not use to waking up without those emotions. I hope I wake up “in love” everyday and when I realize I don’t I get so blah. Even when he and I talk it feels different. Sometimes it feels like we’re just friends and I hate that. Is this normal Sheryl? How can I stop this and get my relationship back on track?

  • Jnell

    Briana, I am feeling just as you are right now…except i really dont have thoughts about being single. My anxiety has passed for the most part…but now i have a sort of empty feeling, almost like its hard for me to have happy emotions. I am still being plagued by negative thoughts and feelings, and Ive been having them for a little over a month and my biggest fear is that the negative feelings will seem like a “gut instinct” and make me do something I will regret so much. I would give anything to be the happy me that i was just 2 short months ago.

  • Jnell

    ive also been so down lately, that I too almost feel like I am grieving as if my fiance and I are no longer together. I will see his shirt or jacket and i will pick it up and hug or hold it and cry. but i know part of the reason i cry is because i am hurting him with my anxiety, and it hurts me so bad inside to know i am hurting him. someone help

  • Brianna

    This is going on my third month. Ill see my boyfriend, hear him or listen to a song that reminds me of him and I’ll start crying. That is how I know I love him. We were talking about our anniversary and I was hysterical because I kept saying how this needs to end by then and he said “yeah there is no way we can both last like this till then.” I just can’t deal with waking up with anxiety everyday and feeling the emptiness that makes me question. Usually when I go to bed I’m happy and I’m like “okay I’m feeling good, tomorrow I’m going to wake up great!” Then I wake up and it’s the same stuff over and over. It also hurts me that I am hurting him. Sometimes I feel like a break up is the answer, more for him than me so he doesn’t have to deal with this.

    • P R

      Your whole post spoke to me…especially: “I’m happy and I’m like “okay I’m feeling good, tomorrow I’m going to wake up great!” Then I wake up and it’s the same stuff over and over. It also hurts me that I am hurting him. Sometimes I feel like a break up is the answer, more for him than me so he doesn’t have to deal with this.”

      I am nit happy in the evenings, per say, but there’s a definite calm that I pray will appear in the morning, but the exact opposite happens. I miss being with him and us and just free in the moments we have had before.

      Any update on you,

  • Brianna

    I also believe if it was a “gut instinct” we would not get anxiety or feel upset. Who cries when they break up with someone? Unless bad things happened in the relationship, I don’t think anyone does. My relationship was always perfect. Yes, we have had some arguments, but no fights. Nothing bad. I was always so sure of everything, until I thought one pointless thought and then the anxiety came. Does that make sense Sheryl?

  • Jnell

    I also believe if the “gut instinct” was really that strong, we really would actually leave, but rather we stay because it is something great that is keeping up with our partner/fiance. My fiance is my rock, my wonderful love, and everything ive ever wanted in a life partner. Anything really worth having is worth fighting for, even if i have to put up a mean fight.

  • Kelly

    Hi Sheryl,

    I have been on and off suffering from waves of anxiety with my relationship with my boyfriend for about a year and half. I had 2 major freak-outs about a year apart and both were as we were very seriously talking about getting engaged. We have been dating since Fall of 2007. We met in the college then have been living long distance since the summer of 2010. Both freak outs were about me thinking I may like another boy who is a friend of mine I work with. The first time I told my boyfriend and I was unsure and didn’t understand why this was happening, as I really do love my boyfriend and I don’t want these thoughts. Then second was a combination of not be able to stop randomly thinking about this other boy and what was, I think, not being ready myself for marriage just yet. That time we tried not talking very much and even thought about breaking up but it didn’t work, we couldn’t not talk with each other and did want to give up on each other. I also confronted this friend of mine (he was moving away) and told him that I also broke up with my boyfriend a year ago because I couldn’t stop thinking about him. He told me that he thought I was being silly and that all I have ever talked about was my boyfriend and how I love him and want to be with him. He has never thought of me as anything more than a friend and would never want to come between my boyfriend and I.I ended up again concluding that clearly some things were still unresolved with my boyfriend and I and we needed to confront them and me liking this other person was just highlighting deficiencies I saw in my own relationship that needed addressed before I could be ready for marriage. We slowed down and everything has been great and again I was so happy and all I wanted was to be married to him (which I had also thought numerous times before). I have planned to move to be where he will be in grad school later this summer after I complete an important milestone at work. I have been so excited. We were recently talking about getting engaged and everything. He asked my dad for his blessing to ask me to marry him this weekend. I am so excited, but I’m also ridden with anxiety because I keep thinking about this other boy. I don’t want to think about him. I have never dated him nor do I want him. I love my boyfriend, he is perfect for me and I want nothing more than to have peace of mind to rid myself of thoughts of this other person. This week I even deleted this friend of mine form my phone and email to try and help. We are Catholic and I have started to intensely pray about it, which helps me a bit as well, but I’m still so confused at times. I just want any thoughts of this other person to go away–I don’t want him. I want to be overjoyed and no doubt in my mind when he proposes sometime soon, but I’m so worried that these repeated thoughts mean I’m making a mistake. I don’t think I am. I want to be with my boyfriend and build a life with him. Why am I being like this? Can your course help someone if their anxiety is manifesting itself in thoughts about another person other than their significant other?

    • “Can your course help someone if their anxiety is manifesting itself in thoughts about another person other than their significant other?”

      It’s one of the most common areas where anxiety hangs its hat, so the answer is a resounding yes.

  • Brianna

    That is true Jnell, I agree on that. I love my boyfriend and when he talks about breakup I get hysterical! So I know that it’s not what I want.

    Kelly, I know how you feel on the thoughts. I get very anxious when I think of guys who I don’t even want! The bad thoughts get me so frustrated. I sometimes think about being single and maybe that I will be better that way and maybe I will “find myself” but I will be so devastated without my boyfriend. He’s the third guy I’ve been with and the first serious one and my first love at that, so it gets me very anxious when I think those things. Even when the anxiety is gone those bad thoughts are there, which makes me think that they are true and then ill get anxious because I’m like does that mean they’re true?!

    Sheryl is it okay to question being single? It scares me.

  • Scared

    Hello Sheryl,
    I have been having a lot of anxiety and intrusive thoughts over the last month and I am terrified. I can hardly eat and have lost 20 pounds in a two week period. The thoughts circle around my boyfriend.( Am I falling out if live with him?) ( Do I love him?) ( what if he is never financially secure?) my boyfriend and I have been together since January 2011. I am 24 and he is 28. Our relationship has not been perfect. 4 months into dating he lost his job and ended up moving to CA to live with his parents while he looked for work. We had a long distance relationship for 6 months. It was very difficult for me. He eventually moved back after I got an apartment with my friend while attending college and he found a job finally. After a lot of pushing from me. Like I said he isn’t perfect but no one is. I was always sure I loved him until recently. In October if 2012 he broke up with me claiming he didn’t live me anymore in a romantic way. We had a lease together so we were stuck living with each other for a while. He started seeing a girl just a week after ending it with me. I was a wreck. In November he started talking about how me missed me and then her and him broke up and he asked if I would give him another chanced. It has been 5 months since then. It all started feeling so right again. Then he lost his job. He found another one right away. He is horrible with money but agreed to let me budget because he realizes he needs help in that department. He has been so understanding and affectionate during my struggle and is trying to be there for me in anyway he can. He keeps talking about our future and marriage. But I keep having these thoughts. They switch from I live him with all my heart to I can’t love him. My friends and family don’t care for him since what happened in October but acknowledge he has made huge improvements and is trying to make things right. i know I have mostly written the negative but lately that’s all I can see. He is funny, caring, smart and before these thoughts I felt happy with him. I want the future we planned but me anxious thoughts are destroying me. Sorry this post is so long but I wanted to explain everything. What should I do? The thought of ending it with him makes me miserable, and sometimes the thought of running away sounds like a relief, but at the same time I don’t want that.

  • Scared

    I also forgot to add that I as diagnosed with OCD as a child. My boyfriend makes me very happy at times and has never been abusive. We are very different though. He loves to stay at home and I love to socialize. Like I said I always knew I loved him until a month ago I woke up with these obsessive thoughts.

  • Diane24

    Hi all,

    This is my first time posting, so bear with me :) I can’t tell you homw refreshing it is to have a community to discuss my fears with. It feels so refreshing to allow myself to be vulnerable with peope I barely know but can relate to.

    I have been in a committed relationship for 3.5 years. It’s the first committed relationship I have been in and will be my last. I dated plenty of guys throughout high school and college, but was never committed to anyone in particular.

    Over the course of this relationship I have begun to learn a lot about myself and committed relationships. A common fear has continued to come up over the course of our relationship “What if I meet someone better then my boyfriend.” This what if plagues me with fear, anxiety and guilt.

    I find myself to be a pretty confident women, but the stuggles with this fear make me feel weak. I have been working tirelessly on figuring out why this fear keeps coming up and would love some advice on how I should get to the root of the problem.

    Deep down I know I want to marry my boyfriend, but find that my fear and anxiety distract me from my true goal.

  • Sarah

    Sheryl, thank you so much for writing this article. It has really helped me over the past week. I have been struggling with some intrusive thoughts and had no clue why they kept creeping up in my mind but this article really helped me to feel like I’m not going crazy and just suffering from anxiety. As soon as I saw that it was because my mind was trying to cover something else up I knew what it was and realized that while it may hurt I really need to address this first problem, because the intrusive thoughts are so unrealistic and the furthest thing from the truth that I should not have to worry abou them. When these thoughts try to creep back in on me I think about my original problem and how I need to fix it. I also was wondering if you thought that my birth control could be causing this extra anxiety. I read that the lower level of estrogen could be a cause of anxiety and I was just curious about your insight. I have never really had anxiety to this level before, I experienced it in some ways but I was always able to easily combat it and calm myself but with the birth control I find this harder to do. Thank you again for this article it really does help.

    • Sarah: I’m so glad you were able to see that the thoughts are a cover-up for your pain. And yes, hormones can have a profound effect on anxiety. I would encourage you to see a naturopath so you can work on becoming more balanced physiologically.

    • Sarah

      Sheryl thanks for the advice I’ll look into that! Is it also possible for the thoughts to get worse when trying to think about or handle the original problem that my mind no longer wants to think about?

  • KTG

    My intrusive thoughts are spiraling me into a deep depression ( when I’ve always considered myself a positive and happy person) because I am having so many thoughts about my ex. I never really grieved or processed the loss of my ex before meeting my current boyfriend ( i started dating him about a week afte my last date woth my ex) I do know that while I was with my ex I was constantly searching for my future husband because I didn’t feel that my ex was going the one for me. y ex and I was always off and on (usually because I wanted to date other people). I never clicked with the people I met until I met my current boyfriend who was everything I thought I wanted until recently. Thoughts of my ex have taken over my life and I often think about walking away from my current boyfriend to return to my ex but something inside keeps telling me that would be a stupid move. I am hurting so bad and so afraid of hurting my current boyfriend who is committed and loyal and understanding and pretty much what I thought I always wanted until now. I’m scared to act in any way. I feel immobile and lost and would appreciate any thoughts.

  • Ibrahim

    Hi Sheryl, I’m amazed by your website but I have a question and I hope you may answer it because I can’t afford joining the e-course.
    I have the same intrusive thoughts that all the former subscribers wrote but the difference that I went to more than one psychiatrist and I am on medication as well as this is not the first time to have the same symptoms as I was in relationships before and I suffered a lot.
    Now I’m engaged and I have intrusive thoughts towards my fiancee that I dont love he, I dont like her physical appearance ( breast size and eye colour) and that I don’t enjoy my time with her.
    How can I believe that I love and that these are just wrong messages as I am hundred percent sure that I like different eye colour and breast size. I know I seem so shallow but the problem is I used to have the same thoughts with my exes but in a different way (the last one I was obsessing that she has a dark skin, the one before that she is very tall) and sometimes I say to myself that I needed her because she understands that I’m unstable.
    I don’t know what to do.
    If you can help I will be very grateful but please tell me anything else than the personality is much more that physical appearance because I know that very much but I cant stop rechecking (and as you said before the most important thing is the essence and I don’t feel happy or passionate or optimistic to travel or go out with her)
    I am sorry for writing all that but I have been suffering for a long time and I want to be happy and I’m afraid to continue and ruin my life (but I have to say that she has many good values and qualities to be fair)
    Thank you so much in advance.

  • Sammy

    Hello Sherly! I’m so glad to find your post.

    Recently, I experienced a panic attack. Then after that, I went numb so I thought that I didn’t love my boyfriend anymore.

    We have been together for 1 year, and before all of this happened, I loved him so much! Then, nowadays, my thoughts say, “YOU DON’T LOVE HIM!” or another fear would be a time when I wanted to exercise or do something positive, my mind would say, “IF YOU DO THAT, YOU WILL REALIZE IN THE END THAT YOU DON’T REALLY LOVE HIM”.

    Then, my mind is also picking up thoughts that I wasn’t happy before, and that I didn’t love my boyfriend before. I constantly doubt again and again. And then recently, out of nowhere, my mind thought about a person who I knew a long time ago, and that person was only attractive for me, but I didn’t like him, so then my mind told me, “SINCE YOU THOUGHT HE WAS ATTRACTIVE, YOU ARE CHEATING ON YOUR BOYFRIEND, AND THIS WILL BE A REASON FOR YOU TO NOT HAVE THE FEELINGS BACK”

    I am sad, and I feel so depressed with my mind :(

  • Kristin

    Hi Sheryl, I was wondering if you could write an article on true identity and intrusive thoughts. I feel that a large reason that intrusive thoughts scares so many of us is because we don’t really feel strongly rooted in our true identity. Could you explore this more? Thanks!

    • That’s a very insightful comment, Kristin. I’d love to hear more about what you mean by that.

    • Kristin

      Hi Sheryl, What I mean is, when intrusive thoughts come along, the reason I think so many of us float around in anxiety is because we don’t know how to reconnect with our true selves. I’ve been in counseling working on this, but I know that not everyone has the tools that I’ve been given. Such things as learning that taking some time and space from the intrusive thoughts I’m bothered with doesn’t mean that I’m going to die (which is how it can feel at first). Also, if you don’t know who you are when you are in your anxiety (would I do that bad thing/intrusive thought? I don’t know!) doesn’t mean that you’re actually any closer to doing it, it just means that you aren’t connected to your true self yet. Something I’ve realized lately is that when I’m feeling anxious and unsure, part of what scares me is those waffling thoughts (I WOULD NEVER DO THAT! ….or would I?). In order to solve this, I need to realize that I’m not ready to deal with that question, instead I need some time to reconnect with myself through talking out my fears to God or my counselor, breathing, etc. And when I’m more connected with myself, I can come back to the question and answer more confidently and peacefully. Hope that this makes it clear what I was asking?

  • Perfect sense, Kristin. Perhaps YOU should write a guest article about it : ). If you feel inspired, I would welcome it.

  • Sarah

    I love this concept! Kristen – this is so true. The reason my thoughts upset me so much is because I’m terrified they mean something about who I am. I was terrified that they meant I would cheat on my husband, and I’m terrified I would hurt my child. If I could be 100% certain that they are just thoughts, that it is just ocd, I wouldn’t be so worried!

    How do you build this connection though sheryl? How do you build trust in yourself? And how could we have developed such a poor self esteem that these thoughts have taken hold, I’m sensitive, but I would describe mysf as low self esteem?

    Thanks for a great article :)

    • You develop self-trust and self-knowledge by spending time every day with yourself doing a process like Inner Bonding and/or mindfulness. Eventually you’ll develop a loving adult self that can comfort and reassure your scared self. But it takes time!

  • Hi Sheryl!
    Thank you so much for this piece. Liked it so much I shared an excerpt in an article I posted just now. Your perspective re the “irony” (or not) factor was so well expressed – and spot on. As a former sufferer of intrusive thoughts – and a counselor – it provided a great deal of comfort. Thank you for your hard work. Your blog is wonderful…
    Bill

  • Matt James

    I wish I found this article many many years ago when I started going through my OCD/PTSD involuntary thoughts, images and feelings. With all that I have experienced in life and torments I’ve had to endure I finally learned my own way through this problem without medication or support and Id just like to say you’ve really hit the nail on the head. This article is so incredibly relevant to me it is like you where actually there and in my thoughts! :)

  • Matt James

    I’ve been put on the spot! this is a really difficult question to answer, specially in short. We could be here for years telling you the things I’ve seen. Even longer if you’re trying to read with my terrible spelling and grammar haha. I think a lot of it had to do with me re learning my past which is also an abnormal trait of mine, I have a lot of memories of every year of my life, even one of when I was roughly 6 months old. Most of when I was 2 to 17 then a huge gap between 17 and 21 missing and I basically just learned how to deal with everything that’s happened to me and let go (I have written a few albums which I think helped dramatically with my emotions also). One of the biggest things that woke me up was when I tried to commit suicide while being about 7 times over the limit speeding at 120kms over a bridge with the sea under me, I fell asleep just for a moment and cheated death maybe 3 to 4 times in the one accident, I hit the side railing that would have killed me if the car didn’t spin the way it did and it also missed the tree which would have also killed me if the car didn’t spin the way it did. But after that happened a lot of the thoughts went away, I still feel very numb about the whole situation. I’ve been through hell and back and lost complete touch with reality. I’m lucky I guess but in a way I’ve always have been. This doesn’t really scratch the surface nor tell you much I think.. but it’s really hard for me to explain how I did it.. some of my biggest break throughs was while I was high on marijuana which I have given up now, I hope this story isn’t to revealing for you guys I really don’t want to be inappropriate :|

    • Thanks for answering, Matt! Not too revealing at all; actually extremely interesting. I think it’s quite common that when someone skirts death something shakes up inside and you’re able to let go of unhelpful thought patterns. Writing also helps tremendously.

  • Matt James

    Interesting you say? glad I could help and also thanks for the help! lol I’m not the brightest spoon in the shed.

    • My guess is that you’re a lot brighter than you give yourself credit for : ). Remember intelligence is measured by much more than what school leads us to believe. And, yes, what you shared was very interesting.

  • JG

    Hi Sheryl,

    I wanted to tell you a summary of what iv been going through so you can let me know if this is just anxiety. I have been dating a wonderful man for about 15 months now. He is the perfect image of selfless love and we have had a wonderful ride making many happy memories. For a few brief times in our relationship I have had these gut feelings of doubt and that everything is all wrong. Recently though for the past 10 days I have delt with them so severly. When I am around him he feels like a stranger and I don’t remember what it was like when we were good I can’t laugh at his jokes or enjoy his company. I feel like im distant from him and loosing him. I am also a strong christian so I wonder if God is trying to tell me something. I am a mess. I am starting counseling but I am so afraid I am going to lose him. It starts with a horrible gut feeling of dread whenever I think about him and my whole body feels it. Its like a living hell of confusion. I want to be free again to choose to love him and enjoy him. If you could let me know what you think that would be great

    • You’re suffering from relationship anxiety to a tee. Please continue to read through my site and you’ll quickly see that you’re in the right place.

  • Kristin

    Thanks Sheryl, I’m actually working on something right now. How could I get it to you when I finish it?

  • Tee

    This blog is a tremendous help. I have recently been diagnosed with both bipolar and generalized anxiety disorder (the OCD component of the GAD and the bipolar go hand-in-hand to bring you down a dark path). The combination of bipolar and GAD make my intrusive thoughts relentless. I am recently engaged myself. I slipped from baseline about two months after my engagement when the just-engaged butterflies faded and the realization that my two-year boyfriend and I are going to spend the rest of our lives together. The first intrusive thought I had was on my way to school and it was “You don’t actually love him,” and it came out of nowhere. At the time I was undiagnosed with either disorder but I was suspicious of the anxiety. My (at the time unknown as) intrusive thought caught me off guard and I took a ride down the grape vine of destruction. I’m doing my best to pull myself back up and be happy with my fiance but it’s difficult. This blog has given me inspiration, though. Thank you for that.

    • You’re in the right place, Tee. Continue to read through my site and consider my ecourse if you truly want to unearth the root causes of anxiety. Most relationship anxiety starts with the thought, “You don’t love him.”

  • Scared, need help!

    Hi Sheryl,

    I recently had my beautiful son 3 months ago. He means everything to me. I have post natal depression/anxiety which mainly consists of intrusive thoughts and worries of my son being harmed by anything. I was recently contacted by an ex boyfriend who I did not reply to. Our relationship was terribl,He treated me badly, killed my self esteem, he would cheat on me and would con me into taking him back. We fell pregnant and I was talked into getting an abortion by his parents. Which is something I could not tell my own parents as they had just decided to separate. My dad had an affair on my mum when I was young and they stayed together for us kids. The problem I need help eith is that since my ex boyfriend has contacted me he seems to be on my mind a lot. Which doesn’t make sense because I absolutely can not stand him I think he is an absolute scum bag. I have the most amazing partner he is my soulmate and having these thoughts of my ex boyfriend scares me and leaves me with a lot of guilt as I have no feelings for him whatsoever and feel like I am betraying my partner. This upsets me very much as I am so happy with my partner and son. Could you please tell me why you think I might be having these thoughts? Thank you

  • Scared, need help!

    Thank you for that reply Sheryl it makes a lot of sense. The negative thoughts have now shifted towards my partner for example it’s like my mind tries to think of any bad thing for me to dislike him. Which will never happen but makes me feel really guilty and upset because I love everything about my partner. I am able to tell between my real thoughts and my anxious thoughts but it’s really bringing me down. Do you have any thoughts on why it has shifted to my partner ?

  • Scared, need help!

    Thank you for that reply Sheryl it makes a lot of sense. The negative thoughts have now shifted towards my partner for example it’s like my mind tries to think of any bad thing for me to dislike him. Which will never happen but makes me feel really guilty and upset because I love everything about my partner. I am able to tell between my real thoughts and my anxious thoughts but it’s really bringing me down. Do you have any thoughts on why it has shifted to my partner ?

  • Scared

    I just want to thank you for this post.

    I am currently having these intrusive thoughts, low appetite, cold feet, and a sense of drunkenness.

    I am 21 years old, and I have been dating my first boyfriend for 1 year and 8 months. In high school, I was seeing this guy for a few months. Anyways, my boyfriend and I started off as friends, in the same university program, and then it blossomed into this wonderful relationship. I have never had such a deep connection with anyone in my entire life, I have never been so open with anyone, never felt so carefree. This guy knows me better than I know myself. 4 months into our relationship, I started taking birth control pills (Alesse) for the first time, no initial side effects. 6 months after I initially started taking birth control, the first intrusive thoughts began. It all started when I noticed that someone at our class was attractive. I felt so incredibly guilty that I found him attractive, and then I would non-stop recite this person’s name in my head. I would have intense crying sessions, couldn’t fall asleep most nights. I eventually told my boyfriend, and he said it was normal to find other people attractive in relationships. Then I started questioning if I really loved my boyfriend, despite knowing with all my heart, that I did and I see a future with him. I think these thoughts began because, like you said, the infatuation phase ended with my boyfriend. More thoughts manifested – I don’t think about my boyfriend as I often as I used to when we started dating, maybe I don’t love him anymore, maybe I want to cheat on him because I noticed someone else. This all started, like I said, 6 months after I started birth control (started this past February). I have been experiencing strange thoughts ever since. 2 months ago, I had the worst episode of my life. I contemplating ending my life, because I felt so hopeless with my thoughts. I could not eat, felt this heavy weight in my chest, constant cold feet, trouble falling asleep, and what was worse – it interfered with school (I had midterm exams at the time). My boyfriend said we should take a break for a week, I wouldn’t talk to him unless it was school related, and then I would finally realize how much I do love him, and that these thoughts are not what I truly feel. I told my boyfriend that I Googled the possible connection between anxiety and birth control, he found a forum filled with comments with women experienced the same thing. I cried with joy, for months I had been searching for reasons to my thoughts, I have never dealt with anxiety in my entire life! I went to my doctor, and stopped taking the pills. It has now been 2 months. I am having another episode of low appetite, but not as severe. I had a destructive thought towards my boyfriend, and it really effected him. I am finding it difficult to move on from this. Last week, I had a very vivid dream that I was cheating on my boyfriend, and although he laughed, it made me feel horrible and all of the progress I had with my thoughts after ending birth control, the intrusive thoughts came back. But what is making my feel so strange and weird, is the irrationality behind these thoughts. When I started with these thoughts back in February, I would think back to the guy I was seeing in high school. I was completely over him before I started dating my boyfriend, so why am I thinking about the guy now? So many irrational thoughts – What if I don’t love my boyfriend, and I’m just hiding from that fact? What if I’m a lesbian because I noticed that girl’s body at the gym? What if I have OCD because of these thoughts (always googling things like this).

    All of the women on the forum said their anxiety and thoughts ended after a few months, but I am worried that my thoughts never will, and my boyfriend will finally have enough and leave me (he has told me time and time again he will never break up with me). I am feeling hopeless, I don’t know the REASON behind why I am having such a difficult time moving on, the REASON to these thoughts (What if it’s more than just birth control?) Any input will be appreciated.

  • Thoughtswontstop

    I have been suffering with intrusive thoughts for most of my life. I actually thought they were normal. They intensified when I had my first child three years ago and have spiraled out of control ever since. Walking up the stairs holding my child thinking “What if I throw her”. What?????? I would never ever do that. I must be insane. Thinking noone likes me, like I am unworthy of anyones love. If my husband goes to the store to get milk because I asked him, something bad will happen and its all my fault.I see a commercial on tv about a disease, I must have it. I could go on and on about all the intrusive thoughts. Its all day and night and it is such a constant fight, its exhausting. It causes me feel anger, shame, guilt.

  • juststuckinaloop

    Ive been married to my husband for 10 years, much of our early years were a real struggle, very turbulent. We married after 9 months of knowing each other and moved away to an Hawaii. It was a time of crazy adjustment, he seemed to regret marrying me and distanced himself emotionally. I had major anger issues, he wasn’t a very kind person, very selfish in fact and hurt my feelings all the time. I am extremely sensitive, he very blunt and analytical. We questioned often whether we should stay married. But, somehow we made it through, with counseling, hard work and lots of changes on both of our parts. 2 years ago we moved back to the place we met, and our marriage have been better than ever, we rarely argue, intimacy is at an all time high, and he has turned into a more loving, expressive partner. Weboth seemto be reconnecting with our true selves. I will start by saying that i have struggled with bouts of anxiety and depression over the years, anxiety/panic attacks starting in my childhood. Recently though, I have been tormented by these thoughts of “falling out of love” with my husband. I look at him very critically, focus on all the things I dont like about him, and the things he’s done to hurt me over the years. I cant stop thinking that he isnt the one for me, and how I just dont feel like my heart is in the marriage anymore. Its so troubling that this can just come up in a matter of a few months, when I never had these feelings so intensely back when things were really bad between us. I feel like i could run away, never see himagain and feel relief. It’s causing me to have small panic attacks and I can’t seem to stop the intrusive thoughts, it makes me wonder if these feelings are real or just my anxiety ramping up? I’ve ended every previous relationship when they started to get serious, my husband is the only person I had no anxiety about being with initially. Please help…..this is getting unbearable!