Intrusive thoughts – unexpected, unwelcome, and often distressing in nature – can occur to anyone, of any neurotype. They are, however, more commonly experienced by those people who have heightened anxiety and/or a mental health condition. This includes, but isn’t restricted to the conditions below and many of us, of course, belong to more than one of these groups:

These unwanted mental intrusions can take the form of imagery, fears, repetitive thoughts, playing out negative scenarios that have happened previously (in the case of PTSD), or that haven’t necessarily happened, but with anxiety attached that is extremely anxiety-provoking.

ADHDers who don’t have co-occurring OCD tend to have intrusive thoughts that stop us from focussing; they get in the way of our intended train of thought and we become sidetracked and forgetful. We go off at tangents in our minds and this makes it incredibly difficult to achieve anything. Some of these thoughts may well be anxiety-provoking, some are not, they’re always intrusive. ADHDers tend to respond by acting impulsively.

OCDers, on the other hand, act on intrusive thoughts by acting compulsively, attempting to reduce anxiety in doing so. Like autistics, OCDers’ response to intrusive/repetitive thought is often in the form of rituals.

This is just a very basic introduction to intrusive thoughts. For more information on the differences between ADHD and OCD-related intrusive thoughts, including kinds of thoughts and how best to cope with them, this link to Klarity is worth a read.

For more information on the other conditions listed, in relation to this topic, Wikipedia’s page on intrusive thought has plenty of links to each condition, as well as neat little summaries, as a starting point.