What are the most common intrusive thoughts for autistic adults?

Intrusive thoughts can vary widely from person to person, and they are not necessarily tied to being autistic.

However, autistic adults or those who are highly sensitive to the emotions and energies of others, may experience intrusive thoughts related to their empathetic nature.

Common intrusive thoughts for autistic adults might include:

Excessive worry about others.

Autistic adults can worry deeply about the well-being and feelings of those around them. This can lead to intrusive thoughts related to concerns about the people they care about, such as worrying about a loved one’s safety, health, or emotional state.

Overthinking social interactions.

Autistic adults may replay social interactions in their minds, analysing conversations and wondering if they said or did something that may have hurt or offended someone. These thoughts can be intrusive and self-critical.

Absorbing others’ emotions.

Autistic adults can sometimes struggle with intrusive thoughts related to absorbing the emotions of others. They may have thoughts like, “Why am I feeling so sad when everyone else seems happy?” or “Why am I so anxious when there’s no apparent reason?”

Guilt and self-blame.

Autistic adults may feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility for the emotions and well-being of those around them. This can lead to intrusive thoughts of guilt or self-blame when things go wrong or when others are unhappy.

Boundary violations.

Autistic adults often have a strong desire to help and support others, but they may struggle with setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. Intrusive thoughts may revolve around feeling overwhelmed or taken advantage of by others.

Caring for strangers

Autistic adults may also experience intrusive thoughts about people they encounter briefly in their daily lives, such as a homeless person on the street or a stranger in distress. They may carry the emotions of these strangers with them and have intrusive thoughts about their well-being.


Autistic adults can become easily overwhelmed by external stimuli, which can lead to intrusive thoughts related to sensory overload, such as thoughts of needing to escape or find solitude.

15 journaling prompts to release intrusive thoughts.

Journaling can be a helpful practice for autistic adults to release intrusive thoughts and process their emotions. Here are some journaling prompts tailored for releasing intrusive thoughts:

  1. Reflect on situations or people that tend to trigger intrusive thoughts or overwhelming emotions. Write down these triggers and explore how they affect you.
  2. Describe a recent situation where you felt emotionally overwhelmed by someone else’s feelings. How did it affect you, and what thoughts surfaced?
  3. Write freely about your current emotional state. Allow yourself to express any emotions or thoughts that come to mind, without judgment.
  4. Consider drawing, painting, or creating something that represents your intrusive thoughts and emotions. This can be a powerful way to release them. It doesn’t have to be a good drawing, just an expression of how you feel. If you don’t feel comfortable drawing images, you can just use colours to represent how you feel.
  5. Shift your focus away from intrusive thoughts by listing things you’re grateful for in your life. Cultivating gratitude can help you find balance and positivity.
  6. Describe moments when you’ve been fully present and grounded. How did these moments help you manage intrusive thoughts and emotions?
  7. Write about a time when your empathetic abilities brought you joy or a sense of connection. How can you harness these positive experiences to counter intrusive thoughts?
  8. Close your eyes and visualise yourself releasing intrusive thoughts like balloons floating away into the sky. Describe this visualization in detail.
  9. Explore the self-care practices that help you manage your empathetic nature. Write about their effectiveness and any adjustments you can make.
  10. Describe how you can incorporate a daily energy check-in routine to assess and release any emotions or energies you may have absorbed from others.
  11. Reflect on situations where you may need to set clearer boundaries to protect your emotional well-being. Write about how these boundaries can help reduce intrusive thoughts.
  12. Write a letter to yourself, showing compassion and understanding for the challenges you face as an autistic adult. Offer yourself words of encouragement and support.
  13. Describe the restorative effects of spending time in nature. How does being in natural settings help you release intrusive thoughts and recharge?
  14. Reflect on how being an autistic adult has positively impacted your life and relationships. Write about your empathetic strengths and the benefits they bring.
  15. Create a ritual for letting go of intrusive thoughts. Write about the steps involved and how this process can help you release emotional burdens.

Remember that journaling is a personal practice, and there are no right or wrong answers.

Journaling is also just for you, it’s a safe space for you to release even unpleasant emotions.

These prompts are designed to help you explore and release intrusive thoughts in a way that feels meaningful and therapeutic to you as an autistic adult.