Hi, I'm so glad to have found your site. It is very helpful.
I have suffered on and off with anxiety/panic and scary thoughts since I was little. It has caused me to have several breakdowns and several visits to hospital. I am a mom of three lovely children but this affliction is robbing me of all my joy, even though I've been a Christian for years and have always trusted God to help me, this latest bout of fearful thoughts and dreadful anxiety has even caused me to lose sight of my faith in Gods help which is really distressing to me. The thoughts I have stem back to when I was small and are always of a sexual nature. I think all sorts of horrid things about myself, which have no basis in truth or reality. I was made to feel afraid and ashamed of sexual things when I was small and ever since I have feared the subject. I have thoughts about other people as I pass them or see them which I do not wish to have and I think I am such a bad person for having these thoughts, to the point that I have attempted suicide twice before I became a Christian, because I felt I didn't deserve to live because of having such horrid thoughts. I am plagued with guilt over these thoughts and this creates awful anxiety and panic. I know so many scriptures that assure me there is no condemnation for those in Christ, but no matter how many times I tell myself, the fear seems to prevail and I feel utterly condemned and terrible. Please would you help me by suggesting a strategy for recovery. I am so tired of believing lies and feeling so powerless. Thank You. MJ
Reply from Sound-Mind.org
First I just want to say how sorry I am for your struggle. Surely suicide is not the answer to this problem and I am so glad that you are alive!Many people who have never suffered obsessive, unwanted thoughts don't understand how painful and debilitating they can be. It is most definately, in my opinion, one of the worst symptoms of anxiety. Please be encouraged MJ. Overcoming persistant, unwanted thoughts takes some time & patience. Dr. Claire Weekes says it best in her book, Hope and Help for Your Nerves on page 127, "You will never lose your obsession while you are trying so hard to do so. In fact, you yourself have established it by trying to push it out of your mind - in other words, by fighting it." I have learned this to be true myself, the more you want the thoughts gone, the more they persist. You must recognize they are only thoughts and thoughts in themselves pose no threat. God knows your heart MJ. He knows that you don't take pleasure in these thoughts. Religious/spiritual obsessions like this (the ones that we feel interfere with our faith) are most bothersome because they are not an actual part of who we are or who we choose to be. The best way to overcome this problem is to accept your thoughts for what they are - only thoughts. Recognize that they cannot hurt you or force you to do anything you do not want to do. Accept 100% that they are there and stop trying to push them out, instead recognize them as a bad visitor who is allowed to be there but deserves NO special attention. Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." It is always good to replace your thoughts and to keep your mind looking for all that is good, but at the same time you must accept that those unwanted thoughts are there and they are nothing but a distraction-nothing but NOISE. Don't go looking and checking yourself for these thoughts. If you do, you will find them and only become distressed. Instead, accept they are there and that as long as you look for them, you will find them. The more you make of these thoughts, the more importance you give them and the bigger they get, so accept them, do not run from them, just accept and MOVE ON thinking those thoughts that are true and right. I found great help in another book called Learning to Tell Myself the Truth
by William Backus. He is able to bring this all into a Christian perspective. Obsessive thoughts/unwanted thoughts are a symptom of an exhausted mind. Anyone who battles this understands what I am saying - it is exhausting and this very thing keeps you on the anxiety/panic treadmil. Hang in there MJ. One day at a time. Whatever you do, DO NOT give up!
PS) I encourage you to read the books above. Try to at least get them from your local library. Dr. Weekes has a way of bringing understanding like no other.