People have up to 60,000 thoughts a day. The majority of them are random, unexpected, and uncontrolled. Things like, “It’s beautiful outside” or “I should wash my car.” They stop in for a moment, then disappear. But some people also have thoughts that cause them distress because of their content. What are sexually-intrusive thoughts? This post explains.
What are Sexually-Intrusive Thoughts?
Sexually-intrusive thoughts are unwanted sexual thoughts or impulses. They are images or thoughts of you doing something you think is wrong or inappropriate. You’re probably not actively interested or aroused by your sexually intrusive thoughts. In fact, they may bother you because of their content. You may be so disturbed by them that you want them to stop.
Examples of sexually-intrusive thoughts include:
- Being attracted to children or family members
- Unwanted thoughts involving animals
- Becoming violent during sex
- Thoughts of inappropriately touching someone else
- Acting out violently or criminally sexually
Intrusive Thoughts vs. Fantasy
A sexual fantasy is something you genuinely want to experience. It’s generally socially acceptable and is arousing. Fantasies are all about experiencing pleasure and hopefully having your fantasy happen. You may even share it with a sexual partner in the hopes of acting it out together. It is something you can discuss without feeling shame.
A sexually-intrusive thought may be brief. It may become recurring and plague you. You consciously know you do not want it. It may even repulse you.
Intrusive sexual thoughts are things you probably don’t want to share with anyone. You may even be reluctant to discuss these thoughts with a mental health professional because you think they’re abnormal.
What Causes Sexually-Intrusive Thoughts?
Many things can cause sexually-intrusive thoughts. And many people have them. Typically, these thoughts are about things, ideas, or people that you care about most. For example, if you’re a family man, perhaps it’s an incestuous sexually-intrusive thought. They may also indicate that something else is happening with your mental or emotional health.
Consistent sexually-intrusive thoughts could be signs of:
- Unresolved trauma
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia
- Sex addiction or other addictions
These mental health conditions cause obsessive and seemingly uncontrollable thought patterns that cause distress. But, there are ways to stop harmful thought patterns so you can feel like yourself again.
Managing Sexually-Intrusive Thoughts
There are many things you can do to manage sexually-intrusive thoughts. Just like different things cause these thoughts, various methods work for different people.
Recognize that you’re having sexually-intrusive thoughts. Also, understand that they’re just thoughts. You’re not acting on them, and they don’t make you a bad person. You have to recognize them for what they are to understand why you have them and stop them.
Try to understand why these particular intrusive thoughts are disturbing. What are these thoughts attached to? Are they trying to tell you something about your values? When did they start? Do you have any idea why?
Don’t avoid or fear your thoughts. Avoiding the thought may feel like an easy choice, but it’s an unhealthy coping mechanism. Accept that you have these thoughts. They don’t control your actions.
Don’t Attach Judgement
The thoughts don’t mean you’re a terrible person. Don’t take them personally. You have thousands of thoughts every day, and you don’t take any of those personally. If those thoughts don’t mean anything about you, why should this one?
Give the thought attention. Much like how children act out for attention, this distressing thought also wants some of your time. Minimize the emotional and psychological damage caused by intrusive thoughts by accepting them. Tell them they don’t mean anything about you or to you. They can be there, but the thought simply isn’t important.
If your sexually-intrusive thoughts are causing you emotional distress, get help from the mental health professional. An expert can help you uncover the cause of your thoughts and process them. If you plan to act out your thoughts, seek help.
Getting Help for Sexually-Intrusive Thoughts
If sexually-intrusive thoughts have become a serious issue for you, getting help may be your best option. At Begin Again Institute, our Certified Sex Addiction Therapists understand sexually-intrusive thoughts and can help you. Visit and reach out today and get the help you deserve.