Do obsessive thoughts keep you up at night? Are you constantly worrying about things that may or may not happen? If so, you’re not alone. Obsessive thinking is a common problem that can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety.
Fortunately, you can take steps to stop obsessive thinking and regain control of your life.
Below we look at what obsessive thinking is, what causes it, and how to put an end to it as well as some resources to help you gain control over your thoughts.
What is obsessive thinking?
Obsessive thinking is defined as persistent, intrusive thoughts that are unwanted and cause distress. These thoughts can be about anything you fear or worry about, including your health, relationships, work, or money.
For some people, obsessive thoughts may come and go and be manageable. However, for others, obsessive thinking can become so severe that it interferes with their daily life.
Obsessive thinking can lead to anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD is a mental health disorder characterized by obsessive thoughts and repetitive behaviors.
Signs of obsessive thinking
- Unwanted, intrusive thoughts
- Excessive worry about things that may or may not happen
- Doubting your decisions
- Feeling the need to have things a certain way
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing on anything else
- Avoiding situations that trigger obsessive thoughts
- Engaging in repetitive behaviors to try to control obsessive thoughts
If you’re experiencing any of these signs, you may be struggling with obsessive thinking. Luckily, there are ways to stop obsessive thinking and regain control over your life.
What causes obsessive thinking?
There can be many different causes of obsessive thinking. In some cases, it may be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain. Other times, it may be due to a traumatic event or stressful life experience.
OCD is another mental health disorder that can cause obsessive thinking. OCD is distinguished by intrusive thoughts, repetitive behaviors, and avoidance of certain situations or objects. People with OCD often engage in obsessive thinking to manage their anxiety and fears.
Stress can trigger obsessive thoughts. For example, you may start obsessing about your health after a significant life event such as the death of a loved one or losing your job.
Anxiety is a mental health disorder that is characterized by feelings of worry, nervousness, and fear. People with anxiety are more likely to have obsessive thoughts. This is because anxiety can cause you to focus on your fears and worry about worst-case scenarios.
Traumatic events can also lead to obsessive thinking. For example, you may start obsessing about your safety if you were in a car accident or experienced a home invasion.
Obsessive thinking can be passed down from family members. If someone in your family has OCD, you may be more likely to develop the disorder.
How to stop obsessive thinking
There are several things you can do to stop obsessive thinking. These include:
Identify your triggers
What situations or events trigger your obsessive thoughts? Once you know what these are, you can start to avoid them or prepare for them in advance.
Challenge your thinking
When you have an obsessive thought, ask yourself if it’s realistic or based on fact. Most often, obsessive thoughts are irrational and not based on reality. Nevertheless, challenging your thinking can help reduce your obsessions’ power.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed by obsessive thoughts, try to distract yourself with activities you enjoy. This can help remove your mind from your obsessions and reduce anxiety.
Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation can help calm your mind and body. This can be helpful when you’re feeling overwhelmed by obsessive thoughts.
Seek professional help
If you’re struggling to control your obsessive thoughts on your own, seeking professional help may be the best option. A therapist can help you to understand and manage your obsessions.
Treating obsessive thinking with Professionals
If you’re struggling with obsessive thinking, there are treatments available that can help. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that can help you to change the way you think and behave. CBT can be used to treat obsessive thinking, anxiety, and OCD.
Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is a type of CBT specifically used to treat OCD. ERP involves exposing yourself to the things that trigger your obsessive thoughts and then learning how to manage your anxiety without engaging in obsessive thinking or repetitive behaviors.
Some medications can be used to treat obsessive thinking. For example, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a medication often used to treat OCD. SSRIs increase serotonin levels in the brain, which can help reduce obsessive thoughts and anxiety.
Resources For obsessive thinking
If you’re struggling with obsessive thinking, there are treatments available that can help. First, talk to your doctor about the best treatment options for you. With treatment, you can gain control over your thoughts and start living a more peaceful life.
Websites for more information:
Below are some helpful books and websites about OCD and anxiety:
Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts: A CBT-Based Guide to Getting Over Frightening, Obsessive, or Disturbing Thoughts by Sally M. Winston PsyD and Martin N. Seif PhD
The OCD Workbook: Your Guide to Breaking Free from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (A New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook) by Bruce M. Hyman Ph.D. LCSW and Cherlene Pedrick RN
Can’t Stop Thinking: How to Let Go of Anxiety and Free Yourself from Obsessive Rumination by Nancy Colier and Stephan Bodian
Obsessive thinking can be a complex and debilitating problem. However, there are treatments available that can help you to gain control over your thoughts. If you’re struggling with obsessive thinking, talk to your doctor about the best treatment options. With treatment, you can start living a more peaceful life.