Intrusive Thought Flowchart – Illustrated Mental Health Resource

It’s not always this simple, but *sometimes* it is: shifts in how we respond to intrusive thoughts from PTSD or anxiety can shape our internal response and give strength to our future responses when intrusive thoughts arise. Sometimes just shifting from “OMG NO! The intrusive thought is here! 😱 Run away! 🏃‍♀️🏃🏻” to “Oh, hello. 👋You are back, huh? Ok, let’s deal with you and put you back where you belong 💭🧺” can bring a lot of relief.

Intrusive Thought Flow Chart

For myself and many of the individuals I have worked with, these are helpful responses to when intrusive thoughts begin to make their way in:

  • Notice these thoughts without judgment
  • Engage the thoughts in a meaningful way: through writing, moving, visualizing, or crafting language for them as to have a conversation about it
  • Then, create a gentle body shift – like getting up to water plants or making a cup of tea

These action steps can help manage intrusive thoughts in a much healthier way than frantically trying not to have the thought at all.

What Are Intrusive Thoughts?

An intrusive thought is an unwelcome, involuntary thought or mental image that is unpleasant, upsetting, distressing, or may feel difficult to not think about or imagine. It is not uncommon to have intrusive thoughts, but when they occur to the point that normal functioning is inhibited, support should be sought out.

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This doodle is from the #mentalhealth and anxiety adult activity book I have been plugging away at and hope to make available – to patron access first – this fall. Thank you to Patrons for keeping my vision for this project alive!

A gentle reminder: my content is not mental health treatment, online illustrations and other digital content are not therapy, and my content is for general educational purposes only. Please see the terms of use for clarification. I am not able to engage therapeutically or provide referrals via social media, online comments, direct messages, or emails . If you are in need of mental health support, reach out to a therapist in your area to establish a professional relationship and get the care you deserve, or get in touch with the Crisis Text Line for support today.

Image Description for Screen Readers:

The image depicts a hand-drawn flowchart, on the right side of the image is white text on a dark teal background, the left side shows teal text on a white background.

Circle in center states: intrusive thought. One arrow from this text extends left and one arrow extends right.

Left side of image: the line from “intrusive thought” connects to a bubble with the words “noticing without judgment.” From “noticing without judgment” there are three connecting lines: 1. Writing it down and sealing it in an envelope until therapy, 2. Talk with the thought and parent it, 3. Visualizing putting it on a shelf until later. All three options connect back to a box at the bottom of the left side which states: “move on with your day.”

Right side of image: the line from the “intrusive thought” center bubble connects with a box labeled “BLOCK IT!” From this box an arrow extends to a box labeled “thoughts get louder.” The next arrow points to “frantic attempts to block.” Arrows depict a cycle of back and forth movement, as thoughts get louder despite attempts to block the thought. The cycle ends with an arrow pointing to a box titled “panic,” which has an arrow pointing to a box titled “crash.” Crash has an arrow that returns to the top center bubble titled “intrusive thought”

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Instagram screen grab of the intrusive thought flowchart.

One Comment

  1. Hi Lindsay, thanks for this. Just wondering, what it would look like to parent the thought like you have mentioned above?

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