Working through intrusive thoughts

Trying to work through intrusive thoughts and the shame associated with them. I only experienced this particular thought once while masturbating, and brushed it off as nothing more than what it was, intrusive. But a couple months later, I remembered myself having that thought and I’m feeling a lot of shame, thus also feeling disconnected from my sexuality, which I’ve never really felt before. I’m wondering how to work through that shame and find forgiveness in order to move forward and get back in touch with my own sexuality and the love I once had for myself as a sexual being.


This may sound a bit silly, but I “respond” to it as if it were that one kid in class that makes bad suggestions. If your brain says something weird, think something back. Like “No thank you,” or “That’s nice. How about no?” Helps you address that it is not desirable while also making you giggle (and avoiding shame).

On a more serious note, the fact that you don’t want them means that it’s not your fault. The thoughts are not who you are, so you don’t have to be ashamed of them. It happens sometimes, and that’s ok!


Ugh, intrusive thoughts and shame, especially with sex and our bodies, is the worst! Brains can be lovely but also oh so dumb sometimes.

I spent a long time having a lot of shame come up in association with masturbation, specifically for me because of my sexuality and how I was raised (IE in a community that believed it wasn’t ok to be queer).

For me, the work I’ve done in therapy in confronting and sitting with intrusive thoughts have really helped! Not only in relation to masturbation and sex, but a lot of things. Some of the CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) practices I’ve learned really do help. I’ll list some below that I think would be helpful with this!

  1. Sit with and reframe. When those thoughts come up, the best thing to do? Don’t avoid them, which I think is what most of us tend to do. Acknowledge the thought, but then sit with it and try and understand and reframe it. So for example, if you feel shame for orgasming, acknowledge that you feel shame, don’t minimize it. But then ask yourself “why am I feeling shame?” I’ll use myself for example. By asking myself this, I was able to recognize I was feeling shame because my orgasm was usually a product of me masturbating to porn that wasn’t straight, and I was raised that queer relationships weren’t “ok,” so a part of me felt my pleasure and orgasms weren’t ok because of this. Also I was raised to think that sex was more about reproduction vs. pleasure, and so my brain had shame around pleasure from orgasming because of that. So, I could see why I felt shame, and where it came from. But I also know that those values and thoughts causing my shame aren’t what I really believe, but rather some values deeply instilled in me that I’m working as an adult to unlearn. So I like to reframe those thoughts by saying “ok, I get why you are feeling shame given the things you were taught as a child, but those aren’t things you believe are true. You, Lisa, believe pleasure is wonderful and that all types of love is valid, and you shouldn’t feel shame for the attractions you have. I’m sorry you feel shame, but it’s ok to feel how you feel.” Doing this won’t make the shame go away instantly, it’s a practice of reinforcement, but it does eventually help you keep the shame at bay, address it, and eventually it has gone away for me!

  2. Journaling and thought records. If you don’t like to address things head-on, I like journalling and thought recording. I’ve done that post sex and masturbation to capture things I’ve felt about my body and its experience, and then taken those notes to therapy (or with myself) to further examine. It’s a helpful way to capture things in the moment to think about later.

  3. Exposure therapy. So, this is tricky and you do have to be careful with it, but it’s helped me loads. Basically you take a thing that causes you anxiety or shame, and you put yourself in a controlled situation to feel it, and then examine the data from doing that. Big thing to this: you don’t want to cause yourself too much anxiety or shame. On a scale of 1-10, you don’t want to be at a 10. It’s more exposing yourself to something that will slightly elevate how you feel, so you can record how you react and examine how it made you feel.

So for example, I’ll use myself again, I did exposure therapy with my partner with me sitting on his face. It’s something I’ve been uncomfortable doing because of my body and all these fears and assumptions I had, so I just avoided it. Before, we talked about it, made sure I would feel comfortable and be in communication with him. If I felt too exposed or too anxious about it, we could stop. And I had to be really present during it. And yes, at first I felt very exposed and uncomfortable, and it raised my anxiety. But I noted those feelings, acknowledged them, then tried to sit with all of those things and keep going. In the end, I was able to do this thing that intimidated me, and it was actually fun and I learned that 1. I could do a thing I avoided and be fine and 2. I could actually enjoy parts of it. Exposure therapy is basically showing your body you can tackle things you avoid, you can care for yourself in the moment and be ok, and maybe even enjoy or learn something from pushing yourself in a gentle way to do said things. Exposure therapy has been huge in changing my life when it comes to sex but also in relation to my body, my healthcare, how I live, pretty much my whole life. But def. I would suggest working and doing those things with a therapist and a buddy to be safe and not overwhelm yourself.

Sorry for the long response, but this is def. something I’ve worked on a lot with myself, and I just want you to know you can address those feelings and get back to that loving relationship you had with yourself, and maybe even a better one!


I just wrote a whole post on my first tinder date, and this is what happened, was intrusive thoughts >.< thank you for sharing this and opening up, it has helped me realize what I need working on <3

1 Like

I’ll second the idea of CBT. It can help with intrusive thoughts both in and outside of sexual situations. I have anxiety from growing up that has nothing to do with sex that I’ve been working on addressing with my therapist. I ALSO have intrusive thoughts of shame with regards to sex from growing up in a conservative Christian culture. Even when I got married I still felt shame, and I’m working through that. Currently my wife and I are talking about opening our marriage up and there’s more baggage to work through to do that and both of us feel good in doing so. Emphasis on work, but it can be worked on and helped.

1 Like