CBT Exercises For Intrusive Thoughts That Actually Work

CBT Exercises For Intrusive Thoughts

Do you suffer from intrusive thoughts? If so, you’re not alone. Intrusive thoughts are very common and can be quite debilitating. In this blog post, we will discuss 11 CBT exercises for intrusive thoughts that actually work! These exercises will help you manage your intrusive thoughts and improve your quality of life.

What Are Intrusive Thoughts?

Intrusive thoughts are unwanted, often distressing, thoughts that occur repeatedly in the mind. These thoughts can be about anything, from small everyday worries to more serious topics such as death or harm coming to yourself or others. Intrusive thoughts can be extremely difficult to ignore, and they can have a major impact on quality of life and mental health. some of the signs you need to know are:

  • Rumination- thinking about the same thing over and over again.
  • Worrying about things that have already happened or may not happen at all.
  • Fixating something negative for long periods of time.
  • Obsessive thoughts about certain topics.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by repetitive ideas.

What Is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that focuses on changing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It involves talking to a psychotherapist or counselor in order to identify patterns of unhelpful thinking and behavior, and then working together to come up with strategies for dealing with them. CBT exercises can be very effective for managing intrusive thoughts. This way, you can gain control over your thoughts and start to feel more in control of your life.

How Can I Do CBT On Myself?

It is important to note that CBT should always be done under the guidance of a trained professional. However, it is possible to do some CBT exercises on your own. Here are the ways to start:

  • Perform Activities That You Enjoy: Doing an activity that you enjoy can help distract you from intrusive thoughts. This could be anything from playing a musical instrument to going for a walk.
  • Manage Tasks: Create a list of tasks and prioritize them. This will help to keep you focused and on track when it comes to managing intrusive thoughts.
  • Challenge Your Thoughts: When intrusive thoughts come up, take time to write them down and challenge them. Ask yourself questions such as “Is this thought really true?” or “What evidence do I actually have for this thought?”
  • Take Breaks: Take regular breaks throughout the day, even if they are just five minutes long. This can help reduce stress levels and clear your mind so that you can focus on other things.

What Are CBT Exercises For Intrusive Thoughts?

CBT Exercises For Intrusive Thoughts

These are eleven of the best CBT exercises for intrusive thoughts that actually work. Try them out and see what works best for you!

Thought Record

This exercise involves writing down the intrusive thought, then evaluating it objectively by looking at the evidence for and against it. Once this is done, you can begin to challenge the thought and come up with alternative ways of thinking about the situation.


This exercise involves stopping yourself when you have an intrusive thought and replacing it with a more helpful one. For example, if you have thought about being judged by others, think of something that makes you happy instead. This can help to break the cycle of negative thinking and give your mind something positive to focus on.

Grounding Techniques

These techniques involve using sensory information from the environment to help bring yourself back into a calmer state of mind when intrusive thoughts become overwhelming.

For example, you can focus on the smells in the room, or take slow deep breaths and count to 10.

Distraction Techniques

When intrusive thoughts begin to overwhelm you, it can be helpful to distract yourself by engaging in activities that bring you joy or relaxation such as reading a book, going for a walk, playing an instrument, etc. This will help break up the cycle of intrusive thoughts and give you some much-needed respite.


Sometimes it’s not enough to just challenge our negative thinking patterns; we need to be kind and compassionate towards ourselves too. Practicing self-compassion will help us move away from harsh self-criticism and instead embrace ourselves with kindness and understanding.


When intrusive thoughts become overwhelming, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of catastrophizing or predicting the worst. This exercise involves identifying when you are engaging in this type of thinking and then challenging it with more realistic and positive alternatives.



Mindfulness is an exercise that teaches you how to observe your thoughts without judgment. By practicing mindfulness, you can better recognize when intrusive thoughts enter your mind and learn how to let them go without getting caught up in them.


Visualization is another helpful technique for managing intrusive thoughts. Instead of engaging with the thought, you can visualize yourself in a peaceful place, or imagine a wall between you and the thought.


Writing down your intrusive thoughts on paper can help make them seem less powerful and more manageable. Once you have written them down, it may be easier to challenge them and come up with alternative ways of thinking about the situation.

Cognitive Reconstructing

Cognitive reconstructing is a technique that involves questioning the validity of your intrusive thoughts and considering alternative perspectives. This can help you better understand why you are having these thoughts, as well as gain more control over them.

Positive Affirmations

Positive affirmations are another great way to challenge intrusive thoughts. This involves repeating positive statements about yourself or your situation in order to combat negative thinking patterns. For example, saying “I am capable and strong” when you feel overwhelmed by intrusive thoughts can help remind you of your inner strength and resilience.

These are some CBT exercises for intrusive thoughts that can be helpful tools for managing difficult or distressing thoughts. With practice, these techniques can help you gain a greater sense of control over your thoughts and ultimately improve your quality of life.

Does CBT Work For Intrusive Thoughts?

CBT Work For Intrusive Thoughts

Yes, CBT has been shown to be effective in reducing and managing intrusive thoughts. Studies have found that it can help reduce the frequency and intensity of these thoughts, as well as their associated distress. Additionally, CBT can provide people with the tools they need to better manage their intrusive thoughts in the long term. It is important to remember, however, that everyone’s experience with intrusive thoughts is different, and thus individualized treatment plans should be tailored accordingly.


CBT exercises for intrusive thoughts can be very effective for managing your symptoms and improving your quality of life. Give some of these techniques a try, and remember to practice patience and self-compassion as you work through them. With time, effort, and the right support, you will soon start to find relief from intrusive thoughts.

Take care, and don’t forget that you are not alone! OCD is a mental health disorder characterized by obsessions and compulsions. If you have any queries regarding OCD treatmentERP therapy experienced therapists at OCDMantra can help: Book a trial OCD therapy session