Recognizing Unwanted Thoughts and Feelings
Excerpted from Managing Unwanted Thoughts, Feelings & Actions Workbook
By Ester R.A. Leutenberg and John Liptak, PhD
People who encounter unwanted thoughts, feelings, and actions face frightening experiences. They may have a difficult time distinguishing between what is real and what is not real. They usually regret what they thought and felt, and/or how they acted. They find that often this interferes with their work, school, family relationships, and interactions with friends and people in their community. Unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions can cause confusion, be difficult to deal with, and disrupt any setting. Mental health issues contribute to unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions. When adults experience these symptoms, they are typically challenged by being and remaining in touch with reality. They have difficulty coping with the stressors and demands of their daily lives.
How Do Unwanted Thoughts, Feelings and Actions Issues Manifest Themselves?
Because there are so many bizarre ways these feelings can manifest themselves, disturbances can be very difficult to identify and manage. It is critical to be aware of, to understand, and to acknowledge how symptoms are commonly experienced. Although most or all symptoms do not have to be present, those that are present will typically cause significant distress and/or impairment in daily functioning. Listed below are some possible symptoms:
|Agitation||Cold manner||Confused thoughts|
|Dangerous actions||Delusions||Detached from others|
|Difficulties in the workplace||Disinterest in maintaining personal hygiene||Disorganized speech|
|Feelings of entrapment||Flat affect||Forgetfulness|
|Hallucinations||Inability to understand and accept reality||Inability to communicate well with others|
|Inability to express emotions||Inability to make good decisions and judgments||Inability to think clearly and rationally|
|Inappropriate behavior||Incoherent speech||Increased drug/alcohol use|
|Intense anxiety||Loss of appetite||Loss of interest in everyday activities|
|Loss of touch with reality||Mood swings||Problems maintaining relationships|
|Problems in school||Rigid actions||Strange actions|
|Suicidal thoughts||Unusual movements||Withdrawal from others socially|
Sources of Unwanted Thoughts, Feelings and Actions Issues
As with many different types of psychological problems, the origin of these unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions issues are difficult to pinpoint. Because of their complex nature, these issues are often brought on by one or a variety of these sources:
Genetics and Biology
Psychotic disturbances often run in families and thus researchers believe that they are inherited, but that is not the only cause. A complete medical and psychological history should be collected by a medical professional to identify family members who may also have experienced disturbances with unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions.
The structure and functioning of the brain has been shown to have an effect on the incidence of psychotic disturbances. Chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters) that communicate between neurons, also seem to play a role. In addition, the structure of the brain found in healthy individuals is different from that of people who experience disturbances with unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions. An examination to explore the structure and functioning of the brain should be conducted by a medical professional.
An inability to cope with major stressors can be a factor in disturbances in thoughts, feelings and actions. Some of the major stressors might include traumatic shock or abuse. An examination of the person’s life events that may be causing unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions needs to be conducted by a medical professional.
Disturbances with unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions are more likely to occur in people with poor medical health in general, or those who suffer from an existing psychological problem. A medical history can reveal conditions that might induce problems in thoughts, feelings and actions, and should be examined by a medical professional.
A history of problematic drinking, tobacco, marijuana or other drug use has been associated with the development of disturbances with unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions. A history of a person’s drug, tobacco and alcohol use should be examined by a medical professional. People experience many different types of problems related to unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions.
In order to help participants deal successfully with unwanted thoughts, feelings and action issues, facilitators need to have a variety of assessments and activities to help their participants open-up and begin to feel they can manage the symptoms of their unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions and realize that they are not alone.
When to Worry?
Disturbances in unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions are difficult to manage because they blur the line between what is real and what is not real. The good news is that people can develop the skills needed to manage the symptoms and progress forward to begin enjoying life more. Unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions that accompany many of the mental health issues that people deal with daily can be a very frightening way to live. People who experience these issues over time are at risk of having a serious mental illness and need to seek a medical professional.
People who experience severe bouts of unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions are often at risk for suicide. Sometimes they can become irrational and think that the only way to escape the pain is to attempt suicide. Remember to take any talk about suicide or suicidal acts very seriously.
|Signs of suicidal thoughts|
|Withdrawing from family, friends, and activities of interest in the past||Increasing use of harmful substances|
|Giving away possessions||Expressing severe hopelessness about the future|
|Making a plan for dying by suicide||Calling or visiting people to say goodbye|
|Getting legal affairs in order||Engaging in reckless actions|
|Talking about killing or harming self||Expressing feelings of being trapped with no way out|
|Purchasing a weapon|
Serious Mental Illness
If participants have a serious mental illness, they need to be taken seriously. Facilitators can take an active role in their finding help immediately. All disturbances of thoughts, feelings, and actions need to be thoroughly evaluated by a medical professional, and then treated with an appropriate combination of medication and group and/or individual therapy.