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You're Not The Only One Having Scary Thoughts

What are intrusive thoughts? They are unwanted, often scary or disturbing thoughts that pop into our brain spontaneously. Some studies report that intrusivethoughts occur in more than 50-70% of people in the postpartum period. 70%!!!!  You are NOT ALONE if you are experiencing intrusive thoughts. There are some theories that suggest that intrusive thoughts are your brain's way of making you aware of dangers.  Your deepest desire as a parent is to   care for and protect your baby - not to harm them. So your brain, in it's hypervigilant state, sends you terrifying images of things you need to protect your baby from or prevent from happening...thanks, brain. Awesome. 


Kate Borsado some great blog posts that talk about intrusive thoughts, what they are, how to manage them, and what they are not. 


The key points I want YOU to know are:

1- You are not alone. Intrusive thoughts are VERY common postpartum, however, like a lot of things, just because they're common, doesn't mean they are easy to deal with or that you don't need help to get through this phase. 


2 - Intrusive thoughts are not reality. Intrusive thoughts are caused by your brain in it's hypervigilant state of caring and protecting your baby. Sometimes this is blown way out of proportion because of lack of sleep, an overall sense of overwhelm, needing more support for caring for yourself or baby, or because of postpartum anxiety. 


3 - Nothing is "wrong" with you.  Having an intrusive thought does NOT mean you are going to act on that thought.  It does not make you a terrible person or a bad parent. You KNOW the intrusive through is disturbing and scary and it is not something you think you should do.  This is a key difference between intrusivethoughts and symptoms of more serious conditions like postpartum psychosis. 


4 - There is help. You can learn strategies to deal with and cope with intrusive thoughts and minimize the impact they have on your day to day life.  One of these is simply recognizing what is happening and naming it: "I'm having an intrusive thought right now. I didn't ask for this, it's just my brain" or  "Hi anxious brain, this intrusive thought is not helping me right now, you can leave". or "My baby is safe.  I'm not going to do x, y, z, this isn't real, it's just an intrusive thought". Kate Borsato has some good suggestions in the first article I linked:  Can I Make Intrusive Thoughts Go Away? 


Some other helpful resources about intrusive thought:

Book:

  • Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts: A Healing Guide to the Secret Fears of New Mothers – Karen Kleiman

Podcasts:

Honest as a Mother - Feb 6, 2023

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