Thoughts of harm and catastrophe have always plagued my mind. I remember one intrusive thought as a child that stuck with me.
I still have reminders every time I go by the thing that triggered it, showing just how powerful and traumatic these thoughts can be.
Through therapy and researching I now have a better understanding of obsessions, intrusive thoughts and when I am ruminating.
I used to go on beach trips with my family a lot. We lived 40 minutes or so from the coast.
On the way, we would pass a wind farm. They weren’t a rare sight for me, but one day I imagined being tied to a propeller of a wind turbine.
It just popped into my head. The thought of being tied to it as it was spinning with me dizzy, powerless and with no end in sight.
When we finally got to the beach, I was playing but couldn’t shake the thought.
I was trying to have fun but seriously. What would happen if I was tied to that thing forever?
This started with an intrusive thought
In my account, being tied down and unable to break free is the unwanted thought, bringing on distress and anxiety that still resonates today.
Intrusive thoughts can be seen as individual sparks creating (or emerging from) the metaphorical fire. The fire being the obsession.
The thought didn’t leave as the turbines disappeared on the horizon. They remained just as vivid as I dipped my feet in the sea an hour or so later.
And even today when I see a turbine, as crazy as it sounds, I have the memory of the thought hitting me for the first time.
Intrusive thoughts can repeat. And repeat…
Frequent intrusive thoughts on a certain theme are the obsessions.
Intrusive thoughts vs obsessions
Intrusive thoughts are the individual thoughts that contribute to an obsession.
An obsession can be thought of as a storm cloud. A storm consists of individual raindrops, similar to how an obsession consists of many individual intrusive-thoughts.
Ruminations vs intrusive thoughts
Healthline defines rumination as continuous thinking.
Rumination is carried out as an attempt to reverse, solve or end the problems arising in the intrusive thoughts, often with negative implications.
- Intrusive thoughts are the sudden, dark and unpleasant thoughts we experience.
- Rumination is processing these thoughts after having one, in an attempt to end the arising anxiety.
Ruminating is our attempt to escape the mental suffering.
Is ruminating a compulsion?
It seems difficult to differentiate between the terms, making it difficult to heal without professional help.
Ruminations vs obsessions
Obsessing can be considered the whole cycle of intrusive thinking and ruminating.
An obsession with being tied to a wind turbine against my will consists of individual intrusive thoughts, resulting in rumination.
Rumination is an attempt to figure out a way to prevent this thought or scenario occurring. This may change our behaviours, such as actively avoiding routes that pass wind turbines.
These behaviours are known as compulsions, and will be looked at in a dedicated article.