Intrusive Thoughts – What Are They and Why Do We Get Them

ADHD Menopause and Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts are a common symptom of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and ADHD. However, they can also be triggered by menopause. But what exactly are intrusive thoughts, why do we get them and what are their meaning?

Intrusive thoughts are distressing and unwanted thoughts, images or urges that suddenly pop into your mind. They can be very varied but usually take the form of:

Doubts: “What if my baby stopped breathing?”, “What if I shook the baby?”

Images: The image of the house burning down because the hair straighteners were not switched off.

Impulses: Urge to crash into the car in front of you, urge to hit your baby when they won’t stop crying.

Thoughts: “The kitchen surfaces must be disinfected before I cook”, “Everything must be in the right place before I leave the house.”

Having an inattentive brain can make us vulnerable to obsessive and repetitive thoughts. People with the Inattentive Type of ADHD often find their minds wandering elsewhere and forget what they are doing or where they are going. In contrast, the thoughts of a hyperactive ADHD brain may be more aggressive or intrusive than those of a neurotypical brain. 

This blog post by the Mini ADHD Coach explains exactly why it happens to us.

Since the body experiences vital hormonal changes, menopause directly impacts mental and emotional well-being. Intrusive thoughts can become commonplace during menopause as hormone levels are falling. This can lead to feelings of worry, fear and sadness which can cause distress. Night terrors can also become commonplace. Some women also feel suicidal but often without feeling the need to act on it. 

My Story

It’s something that is still rarely talked about due to its darker nature. Consequently, many of us believe that we are alone in these thoughts, exacerbating the feelings of shame and guilt.

My earliest memory of intrusive thoughts was as a teenager. I remember thoughts would just come into my head about harming others, about being raped, and about harming myself. I had no idea what these were and was so ashamed I never mentioned them to anyone.

When I became a mother and my PND (now known as undiagnosed ADHD) was at its worst the thoughts returned and were very much based around my boys and harm to them, or my ability to be a mother and why I should be there.

A recent study of new mothers showed that 100 per cent of new mums had worrying thoughts about their baby being harmed accidentally and 50 per cent had worrying thoughts about harming their baby in some way. These thoughts were the ones that were most worrying for new mums.

When menopause hit, the intrusive thoughts returned with a vengeance. Thoughts of driving the car at speed into the middle barrier, suicidal thoughts, and thoughts about my boys being harmed or killed when they were out were all commonplace at one point.

The exact reasons why intrusive thoughts happen are still being researched, but there are a few main theories:

  • Misfiring Brain Circuits: One theory suggests that intrusive thoughts might be caused by temporary glitches in the brain circuits involved in processing thoughts and emotions. These misfires could lead to unwanted thoughts popping into your head.
  • Evolved Defense Mechanism: Another theory proposes that intrusive thoughts might be an evolutionary leftover. Perhaps they stem from a primal urge to identify and avoid potential dangers. However, in the modern world, these thoughts can become exaggerated or irrelevant, causing distress.
  • Attention and Anxiety: Intrusive thoughts can also be linked to how we pay attention. When we focus on avoiding a particular thought, it can ironically make it more likely to appear. Additionally, anxiety and stress can make us more aware of our thoughts, amplifying the presence of intrusive ones.

Intrusive thoughts themselves don’t necessarily have a deep meaning. They are simply unwanted thoughts, images, or urges that pop into your head and can be quite disturbing or upsetting.

  • They don’t mean you’re a bad person: Having intrusive thoughts doesn’t reflect your morality or character. Most people experience them, and the content itself doesn’t define you.
  • They don’t mean you’ll act on them: The overwhelming majority of people with intrusive thoughts never act on them. The thoughts are distressing precisely because they go against your values.

For me, getting my sleep sorted, getting the right HRT sorted and trying to reduce the stress from my life has helped enormously. Although recently I’ve noticed a return. For me though, the biggest help is knowing that they are not a personal reflection on me and that I’m not alone.

Do you suffer from, how do you deal with?

If you like this post, then please read more here:




Additional Resources:

Follow me on Social Media for extra content:

Photo Credit: CottonBro Studio

Share this post?

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from ADHD, Menopause and Me

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading