In recent weeks, we have all heard about the terrible shootings happening across America; first, the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado, and then the Sikh temple shooting near Milwaukee. These incidents affect everyone substantially but they can have a severe impact on people who suffer from obsessive and intrusive thoughts as a result of an anxiety disorder.
Obsessive intrusive thoughts are one of the most common symptoms of anxiety disorders, and they can be increased dramatically by these types of stories. They are recurring scary, invasive notions and/or images that can be paralyzing and unrelenting. The more they occur, the more the person thinks about them, which further cements them into their psyche.
There are three types of obsessive intrusive thoughts:
- Blasphemous religious thoughts revolve around concepts that are considered particularly sinful to the person thinking them
- Inappropriate sexual thoughts or images can involve intimate actions with strangers, family, friends, or any number of other people
- Catastrophic thoughts or violent obsessions involve visions/thoughts about harming others or oneself
It is the last of these that can easily be stirred up when a violent act such as a mass shooting occurs and is widely broadcast over the news channels. With 24/7 news stations continuously relating stories about the killer’s state of mind both before and after the event, it’s easy for victims of catastrophic intrusive thoughts to wonder if they could follow that same path. Each time the thought occurs, they may believe themselves more and more likely to follow the compulsion. These thoughts can be so powerful that the person may eventually cut themselves off from friends and family out of a fear for their loved one’s safety.
The good news is that there is help available to stop these intrusive thoughts, and for all anxiety disorders, in general. Your mental health professional may suggest exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or in some cases, medication. If you or someone you know is suffering from catastrophic intrusive thoughts, please seek help and get on the path of returning to a normal life.
For more information about obsessive and intrusive thoughts, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or about anxiety disorders, contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida. They can be reached by calling 561-496-1094 or by emailing Dr. Rosen and The Center today.