Obsessive Visual Images

Human thinking can take one of two possible forms. The first type of thinking is verbal, like a conversation with yourself that unfolds in the mind of a person. The second type of thinking involves the appearance of images or pictures. Although many Intrusive thoughts feel like an unsettling conversation with oneself, in some cases everything is limited to visual images (Brewin et al., 2010). You might have noticed it yourself.

Here are some of the most common types of Intrusive visual images. They can be static or resemble short video clips, include authentic memories, or be completely fictional.

Insane or disgraceful actions

Many people think they are hallucinating when they see a visual image of themselves doing something crazy or shaming them in public. They are wrong. Such visual images often occur in socially disturbing situations and are just a product of the imagination, caused by stuck thoughts that are expressed in images rather than words.

Whenever I’m at an official event, I’m constantly imagining throwing up on myself and others โ€“ like President Bush.

When I’m interviewed or when I’m at a party, I always imagine myself freezing or shouting something obscene, and people say, ” What’s wrong with this woman? She’s crazy!ยป

I avoid parties because I think I will faint and not be able to speak or control myself when people ask me questions.

Sometimes when I meet someone new, it’s really like I see a short film of sticking my finger in that person’s eye or suddenly running across the room to strangle them. And sometimes-and this is even more strange โ€“ I see a dagger hovering in the air in front of me, which beckons for me to take it.

Illness, dying, and death scenes

These disturbing images can occur at any time โ€“ when you are relaxed, having fun, driving or worrying about something.

Sometimes I suddenly have an image of myself bleeding to death from the Ebola virus, and the more I try not to look, the more terrible the picture becomes. It makes my stomach churn.

For no reason at all, I imagine my dead body lying in a coffin, but somehow I know I’m not dead, and I try to scream for the people who came to my funeral to get me out of there.

Sometimes, when I’m driving over the bridge, I see my car go over the fence and fall into the water; this picture is so realistic that I have doubts whether this is an omen.

Traumatic memories

Traumatic images and sudden memories often appear in post-traumatic stress syndrome, but they can also occur in those whose minds tend to focus on certain topics, and who are upset by thoughts, memories, and even imaginary images. This may be a sudden re-experience, as if traumatic events were repeated again in the present (this phenomenon is often called flashes of the past), accompanied by fear or any emotion that occurred at the time. Or it may be extremely realistic visual memories of events that occurred in reality or in the imagination at the time of the traumatic experience.

I always see a car running over me.

The face of the man who raped me constantly appears in my mind, and I seem to freeze.

I can be anywhere and suddenly find myself falling to the ground when soldiers knock on my door.

I’ve seen news reports about plane crashes, and now it’s as if I see terrible scenes in a plane that falls from a height. Everyone is screaming and crying. I know I wasn’t there, but I can’t stop imagining it.

Although suddenly emerging images from the past and traumatic memories are nothing more than thoughts and images and therefore do not pose any danger, they can be stored in the mind in various forms due to the strong influence of the original experience. If post-traumatic stress syndrome is actually present and it’s not about getting stuck in your thoughts, additional treatments that are not described in this book may be useful. It may be worth seeking help from specialists dealing with such injuries, with other symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome, which are often accompanied by flashes of the past and painful memories.

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