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Those disturbing thoughts might just be your body's way of protecting you

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A boy in front of blackboard with question marks.
A boy in front of blackboard with question marks.
baona | Getty Images file

You're walking across a bridge or standing on a balcony and suddenly think about how awful it would be to fall over. You might feel alarmed, or even ashamed that your brain could entertain the idea. But Dr. Kaz Nelson, a psychiatrist at the University of Minnesota, says just about everyone has been there.

"Usually these intrusive thoughts are related to anxiety signals in the body, where the body is noticing that there may be harm, or potential for harm," Nelson said. "And so the body mechanisms will put this intrusive thought in the brain to say, 'Hey, don't do this.'"

Nelson said intrusive thoughts are especially common among new parents, who are also less likely to talk about it because they fear it reflects on their parenting.

For tips on how to handle intrusive thoughts and when to see a medical professional, listen to the full conversation using the audio player above.