“Letting The Intrusive Thoughts Win!” is a Garbage-Tier Trend: A Rant

by thethreepennyguignol

Was it just a couple of months ago that I said I wasn’t going to talk about my intrusive thoughts on the internet? Yes. But sometimes, a trend pisses me off so much that I feel the need to shout about it online, and that’s exactly what’s happened here, so let’s get into it.

“Letting my intrusive thoughts win!” content has been popping up all over social media recently, and it’s been driving me up the absolute fucking wall. You know what I’m talking about – someone giving themselves a dramatic haircut or touching something they’re not supposed to touch in public under the jaunty title of “letting the intrusive thoughts win!”. It’s a social media signifier for being Not Like Those Other Internet Users, you know, a bit quirky, a bit different, a bit more fun. Smash that like button and remember to subscribe, and so on.

I have no issue with people being a bit silly and posting it on the internet – I fully endorse and support a bit of low-level, harmless foolishness, and strive to indulge it in at least a few times a week myself – but sticking it under the banner of “intrusive thoughts” is incredibly annoying and harmful, and I’d like to get into why.

Recurrent intrusive thoughts are symptomatic of a bunch of different mental health issues – from PTSD to depression to OCD, the latter of which I happen to have. And intrusive thoughts are, by their very nature, contradictory to what you actually want to do; they’re frequent interjections in thought patterns that cause upset by basically tormenting the sufferer with images and ideas they find distressing. If you haven’t dealt with them, it’s hard to explain exactly why they’re so upsetting, but try to imagine the one thing you find most horrible and morally repugnant in the world, and then your brain holding up a big sign with that very thing on it every ten minutes for the rest of your life. I’ve dealt with them for most of my life, and at times, they’ve been genuinely debilitating; being plagued with constant reminders of something you find deeply upsetting can feel close to torture.

Which is to say, it’s not having a ~*quirky*~ impulse and following through on it. And maybe that doesn’t seem like a super important distinction to make – people are using the wrong term to describe themselves doing a silly haircut, fine. But I think it actually does matter, because talking about intrusive thoughts is already hard enough without adding this layer of worry that people might know the term from this kind of social media first and foremost, and what that might lead them to assume about people who struggle with them as a long-term issue.

Intrusive thoughts are already hard enough to discuss at the best of times – it’s why I decided not to share mine with the internet, because I knew it would lead some people to see me in a way I could never go back from – and that’s when the people I talk about them with are actually aware that intrusive thoughts are manifestations of actual desires and impulses. This social media trend, though? This frames intrusive thoughts as something we secretly want to act on, and the thought of someone seeing my intrusive thoughts like that genuinely makes me feel sick.

I don’t want this to become how people understand intrusive thoughts, because if they do, it’s going to lead to people who have to deal with them being seen as fucking monsters – because, if they really intended to act on those thoughts, they would be. But they’re not – these thoughts are symptoms of a disorder, not signals of a desire they actually want to fulfil. Framing them as anything other than that, especially by using that term in a quirky social media trend to show off your fun, impulsive choices, is needlessly stigmatizing.

I can’t strongarm everyone on social media into quitting their use of this phrase and leaving intrusive thoughts out of their impulsive TikToks or YouTube shorts, but I really hope this trend dies off soon. Intrusive thoughts aren’t the kind of thing I want to see re-framed into fun, when I know how hard they can make the lives of people who live with them, and the sooner this vanishes from the face of the internet, the better.

If this is your first time coming across my OCDiaries series, detailing life with OCD, please consider checking out the rest of it right here!