my intrusive thoughts r making it rly hard to focus in lessons - ik all the stuff abt distraction but in lessons there's not much I can do so I end up not focusing / spending all my energy on not doing sth stupid (they make me want to hit my head on stuff) & I try to just dismiss them as meaningless because I know they are but they won't stop & it's making functioning hard, any tips/ideas for what I can do? (my school is aware I'm mentally ill if that helps)
It can be really hard to deal with intrusive thoughts in lessons. I think that your school knowing whats going on will help. When I was at college, my teachers knew that I struggled with this too and I was given permission to leave class if I really needed to, due to my anxiety. I’d just get up and go to calm myself down and return after. I’m not sure if this is something that they do at your school, but having something in place that would allow you to leave the room if it got really bad and too overwhelming may be helpful. It might be good to look into asking your teachers if there are any options that might be in place to help student with mental health problems.
As for dealing with the intrusive thoughts when you’re in lessons, my CBT/ERP therapist gave me two methods to use. One of them was to dismiss the thought and the other was to agree with the thought.
For example, you said you have thoughts about hitting your head against things; agreeing with the thought would be saying something like ‘yes, I’m absolutely going to hit my head against that thing’, inside your head. It sounds strange, but we spend so long trying to deny intrusive thoughts that agreeing with them can actually lessen the anxiety it causes. However this method can cause a bit of an increase of anxiety initially before it eases it, so it might not always be appropriate for certain situations.
The other options was dismissing it and to any intrusive thought just thinking ‘it’s just a thought’ repeatedly, rather than interacting with the thought. It’s easier said than done, but it can be helpful. It might not work the first time and you might have to repeat the ‘it’s just a thought’ mantra quite a few times in your mind, but it can quiet the thoughts a little so you can get on with the class.
They might not work for you, but I found them really helpful and on days when I felt stronger, I’d agree with the thought, my anxiety would increase a bit, but then the intrusive thoughts would lose their power over me. Then on days when my anxiety was worse, I’d try to dismiss the thoughts instead.
Lastly, I was wondering if you’re currently seeing a therapist? If you’re not and you’re in a situation where it’s possible, seeking a therapist might be useful to you. Cognitive behavioural therapy and exposure response prevention therapy is known to be useful in treating intrusive thoughts. For me, this kind of therapy helped me to deal with intrusive thoughts a lot to the point of recovery. I’ll post some resources of intrusive thoughts for you below.
- Anxiety and Intrusive Thoughts: An Introduction
- Ending Scary Thoughts
- Sexual Obsessions in OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)
- How To Overcome Intrusive Thoughts
- Coping with Intrusive Thoughts
All the best,