How do I stop intrusive thoughts after trauma?

Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts that pop into your mind without warning. They can be about anything, but they are often about negative or disturbing topics.

Intrusive thoughts are common, but they can be especially difficult for people who have experienced trauma.

If you are struggling with intrusive thoughts after trauma, there are some things you can do to stop them. In this blog post, I will share some helpful tips.

The Trap of Intrusive Thoughts or Ruminative Thinking

Most of the time, what we fear and obsessively ruminate about never actually happens. However, we continue to believe in the possibility that it will occur and act as if it were a foregone conclusion.

Our mind has a tendency to relate any negative situation to that thought that obsesses us.

If something goes wrong, our brain will say “Aha! I knew this would happen, it’s just as I feared.” We enter a vicious circle where the ruminative thought seems to be confirmed over and over again.

But the reality is that it almost never comes true. It’s just our catastrophic interpretation of the facts. And yet, these persistent thoughts can destroy our lives if we don’t learn to manage them.

Some reasons why we ruminate excessively:

  • Obsessive or perfectionist personalities: they need control and certainty, so they imagine everything that can go wrong.
  • Phobias or anxiety: a threat that rarely occurs is constantly anticipated.
  • Depression: negative aspects are magnified and distorted.
  • Low self-esteem: failure and disapproval are anticipated.

To overcome these tendencies, it is key to generate a more realistic and compassionate narrative towards ourselves.

Remembering that most of our fears are exaggerated and unlikely. And focusing on solving real problems in the present, not hypothetical ones in the future.

With patience, we can train our minds and reduce those thoughts that bind us.

The Connection to Trauma

Intrusive thoughts often have a strong connection to past traumatic experiences. Trauma can leave deep emotional scars, and these thoughts can be a manifestation of the unresolved emotions associated with those events.

To stop intrusive thoughts, it’s essential to address the underlying trauma.

Why do I have intrusive thoughts after trauma?

When you experience trauma, your brain can get stuck in survival mode. This means that you are constantly on alert for danger, even when you are safe.

Intrusive thoughts can serve as your brain’s attempt to protect you by reminding you of past trauma, preparing you in case it happens again.

How to stop intrusive thoughts after trauma

There are a few things you can do to stop intrusive thoughts after trauma, including:

  • Identify your intrusive thoughts. The first step is to identify the intrusive thoughts that you are having. Once you know what they are, you can start to work on them.
  • Accept your intrusive thoughts. It is important to accept that you have intrusive thoughts. Don’t try to fight them or suppress them. This will only make them stronger.
  • Label your intrusive thoughts. When you have an intrusive thought, label it as such. This will help you to distance yourself from the thought and to see it as something external to you.
  • Don’t engage with your intrusive thoughts. When you have an intrusive thought, don’t engage with it. Don’t analyze it or try to make sense of it. Just let it pass.
  • Focus on the present. When you have an intrusive thought, try to focus on the present. This can help you to get out of your head and to stop thinking about the trauma.
Intrusive Thoughts

Additional tips

In addition to the tips above, here are a few other things you can do to stop intrusive thoughts after trauma:

  • Talk to a therapist. A therapist can help you to understand your intrusive thoughts and to develop strategies for coping with them.
  • Practice relaxation. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, can help you to reduce stress and anxiety, which can trigger intrusive thoughts.
  • Exercise. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety, and it can also help to improve your mood.
  • Get enough sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, you are more likely to have intrusive thoughts. Make sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet can help to improve your mood and reduce stress. Avoid sugar, alcohol, and caffeine, as they can worsen intrusive thoughts.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that can be very effective for treating trauma and intrusive thoughts. CBT teaches you to identify and challenge the negative and distorted thoughts that may be contributing to your symptoms. It also teaches you to develop healthy coping skills for dealing with stress and anxiety.

How CBT can help

CBT can help you to stop intrusive thoughts after trauma in a number of ways.

First, it can help you to identify the negative and distorted thoughts that are contributing to your symptoms.

Once you know what they are, you can start to challenge them. If an intrusive thought like “I’m a failure” pops into your mind, challenge it by asking if any evidence supports it.

Second, CBT can teach you to develop healthy coping skills for dealing with stress and anxiety.

These skills can help you to reduce the frequency and intensity of your intrusive thoughts.

For example, you can learn relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation.

You can also learn how to challenge your negative thoughts and to replace them with more positive and realistic ones.


Intrusive thoughts can vary from person to person. They may last for a few weeks or several months. If they persist and significantly disrupt your daily life, consider seeking professional help.

While it may be challenging to eliminate them entirely, you can learn to manage and reduce the frequency and intensity of intrusive thoughts with the right therapy like Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), that will give you techniques and support.

Coping strategies like mindfulness, journaling, and art therapy can be effective. Experiment with different methods to find what works best for you.

Yes, it’s entirely normal to experience these emotions after trauma. Practicing self-compassion and forgiveness can help in the healing process.

Be a compassionate and patient listener. Encourage them to seek professional help if needed and remind them that they’re not alone in their journey toward healing.

If you are struggling with intrusive thoughts after experiencing trauma, take the first step today towards healing and peace of mind.

Reach out to Dr. Benejam, a mental health professional who specializes in trauma to get the support you need.

With professional help and implementing techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy, you can learn to manage your intrusive thoughts and overcome the difficult emotions connected to your trauma.

You deserve to feel empowered, in control, and able to live fully in the present.

Make the call now (561) 376-9699 / (305) 981-6434. to get confidential assistance and take back your mental health.