How to Deal with Obsessive Thoughts in 15 Steps
To stop obsessive thinking, with or without its associated compulsions, here's what you can do.
An obsession can act as blinders: you lose the ability to see or care about what is happening outside the object you are obsessing about. This obsession becomes a part of your daily life and may be related to a fear. It is also different from addiction, which prevents an individual from being satisfied until he or she realizes the object of the addiction. It is not easy to overcome an obsession, but once you learn to stop feeding your obsession and redirect your energy to new people or interests, it will be easier to feel free.
1. Distance yourself from the source of your obsession.
When you are obsessed with someone or something, it will be very difficult to think about anything else if you stay away. The closer you are to the object of your obsession, the harder it will be to think about anything else. You can keep some mental distance by putting some physical distance between you and the object of your obsession. This will be difficult at first, but soon you will feel your obsession weakening, little by little.
Obsession with a person is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. You should limit your contact with the person who is the object of your unhealthy obsession. Spend time distracting yourself by doing something else and find a way to think about something else.
You may be obsessed with a certain activity, such as playing video games. If this is the case, you need to put your video games away by uninstalling them from your computer or giving your console to a friend to keep until your obsession disappears.
2. Stop feeding your obsession.
You will feel a small rush of pleasure from feeding your obsession, but it will become even harder to break the habit. You will strengthen your obsession's control over your life just by thinking about it. In order to break your obsession, you must starve it to death. For example, if you are obsessed with a celebrity, stop talking about it with your friends. Stop following her on Twitter and stop imagining you're on a date together. The more you free your brain from this obsession, the more it will dissipate.
It's not easy to stop feeding your obsession. You'll find yourself playing with your mind, such as telling yourself that you're looking at a certain person's Facebook page for the last time before you stop. But if you're going to get rid of your obsession, you need to stop at the exact moment you feel like indulging it.
Sometimes an obsession can be so strong that it persists no matter what you do to starve it. No matter how hard you try to separate yourself from it, your thoughts keep returning to your obsession. If this is the case, don't be too hard on yourself, you can still fight your obsession, it will just take more time.
3. Find a distraction from your obsessive thoughts.
It is very difficult to cut yourself off from obsessive thoughts. If you feel good thinking or talking about your favorite subject, why would you want to stop? Remember, you want to forget about your obsession so you can get it off your mind and see what life has to offer. When these obsessive thoughts appear, find distractions so you don't fall back into this vicious cycle. Here are some good ways to distract yourself.
- Exercise to keep your mind occupied. Running or walking may not be the best solution, as it gives you too much time to think about your obsession. Try rock climbing, caving or playing a team sport to engage your body as well as your mind.
- Works of fiction make excellent distractions. Choose a book or watch a movie that refers to themes unrelated to your obsession.
- Just when your thoughts start to drift and you need an emergency distraction, try putting on some music, calling a friend (to talk about anything but your obsession), reading an interesting article or getting back to work.
4. Focus on things you've neglected.
When you have an obsession, you don't have time for anything else, such as keeping up with your work, maintaining your relationships, and pursuing hobbies unrelated to your passion. Once you start spending time on other things, you will have less time to think about your obsession.
You can overcome your obsession by repairing relationships that you have neglected. Your friends and family will be happy to see you again and they will provide you with new and interesting ideas, problems and dramas to get involved in. You will feel better for thinking about something else!
Many people find it effective to bury themselves in work to forget their obsessive thoughts. Whatever your job is, focus on it and do your best.
5. Learn to live in the moment.
Do you daydream during the day? You can waste hours and hours thinking about something or someone you are obsessed with. But when you're sitting somewhere and your thoughts are somewhere else, you miss what's happening in front of your eyes. If you're ready to end your obsession, learn to practice mindfulness. This means being totally present in the moment instead of thinking about the past or the future.
Use your senses and really feel what is going on around you. What do you smell, see, hear and taste in the present moment? Observe what is happening in front of you instead of thinking about something else all the time.
Listen to others when they speak to you. Let yourself be absorbed in the conversations instead of nodding mechanically while you think about something else.
It may be helpful to have a mantra that you can recite to yourself when you find that your thoughts become obsessive. By repeating to yourself something simple like "breathe," "connect to the present," or "I am here," you may be able to bring your thoughts back to the present moment.
6. Try cognitive behavioral therapy.
This type of therapy recognizes that there is no way to stop thinking about something you are obsessed with, but there are ways to weaken the links between those obsessive thoughts and their triggers in your daily life. This makes it easier to manage your life and think about things before you act on them. The obsession then becomes easier to manage.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can also be used to develop a word or action that can "break" an obsessive thought and allow you to focus on something else.
7. Strengthen your relationships with others.
If you are obsessed with one person, you can change it by spending more time with someone else. All the energy you put into the subject of your obsession will now be used to get to know someone else. Join a class, socialize by walking your dog in the park, or get to know the friends you already have. By connecting with others, you'll realize that the world has much more to offer than just your obsession.
Avoid comparing the new people in your life with the person you are obsessed with. Try to take advantage of their unique characters instead of trying to mold them into one shape.
Even if the object of your obsession is not a person, you may find it helpful to meet other people. They will present you with other points of view and ideas that you hadn't thought of before.
8. Pursue your hobbies.
You might feel like trying new things is the ready-made solution to every problem, but that's only because it helps a lot. By learning a new skill or perfecting a certain activity, you can wake up your brain and create a shift in perspective that will help you break out of your obsessive circle. Show your obsession that it does not control you by spending time doing something else, anything, as long as it is not related to your obsession  .
For example, if you are obsessed with someone who doesn't like to go to museums or watch foreign movies, you now have the opportunity to engage in these activities that you had been avoiding because of that person.
If you are obsessed with a certain subject, try to learn more about a completely different subject.
9. Make changes in your daily routine.
If your obsession is partly fueled by your habits, such as taking a certain route to work every day so you can drive past your ex's building, it's time to change your habit. Think about it for a moment: what habits do you need to stop, because they will comfort your obsession? You may have found the answer right away. Make a real effort to change your habits. It may be difficult at first, but you should notice that your obsessive thoughts gradually weaken. Here are some changes that can help you forget your obsession.
- Take a different route to work or school.
- Join a different gym or go to your usual gym at a different time to avoid running into the person you're obsessing about.
- Instead of logging on in the morning as soon as you get up to check your email or favorite website, start your day by meditating, jogging or walking your dog.
- Go out to different places on the weekend.
- Listen to different songs while you work.
10. Change your life.
If you're tired of an obsession controlling your thoughts and habits, take charge by making changes. This might seem too drastic, but sometimes you need to change things to show yourself that you can do it. Choose something in your life that symbolizes your obsession and do something to make it fresh and new.
For example, you could change something about your appearance. If you've let your hair grow out because you think the person you're obsessed with prefers long hair, why not change it and cut your hair? Find yourself a short, chic style that has nothing to do with this person.
If you spend all your time on the Internet looking at the same sites over and over again, it might be time to change something in your room or office. Arrange the furniture differently and buy new ones. Clean out your desk and decorate it with pictures or knick-knacks. Get rid of anything that reminds you of the thing you don't want to think about and surround yourself with things that remind you to move on.
11. Talk to a therapist.
Sometimes an obsession is so deeply rooted and holds on so tightly that it is almost impossible to get rid of on your own. If you feel that you can't keep your obsession under control and it's affecting your ability to be happy, you need to make an appointment with a therapist. A professional therapist will be able to provide you with the tools you need to regain control of your thoughts and get your life back on track.
If you have recurring thoughts that don't go away or if you have to repeat certain rituals over and over, you may have an anxiety disorder called obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). If this is the case, it is important to talk about it so you can get help and access therapies and medications to treat OCD.
12. Turn the thought into something positive.
Not all obsessions are bad, in fact, many people spend their lives trying to find something they are passionate about - a subject that instills a desire to know more and more. If you have found an obsession that fits this definition, you can consider yourself very lucky. For example, if you live for astronomy and all you want to do is spend time reading and learning everything there is to know about the subject, you can turn your obsession into a successful career.
While your obsession might not turn into a PhD in astronomy, you can still use it to produce something productive. You may be obsessed with a celebrity and can't stop reading celebrity magazines. Why not start a blog with news about that star or a Twitter account to share what you've learned?
You can also use your obsession as motivation to improve yourself. If you're obsessed with someone who isn't looking at you, you might decide to change the habits that are holding you back. Make it your reason to get up in the morning to go for a run before work or to read the whole lesson so you can give intelligent answers during class.
13. Let your obsession become your creative muse.
If your obsession is a person, you can use that energy to create something beautiful. Some of the best writers, artists and composers were consumed by an obsession. If there is one person you think about all the time, put your unrequited feelings on paper or canvas.
14. Spend time with people who share your obsession.
An obsession might seem like a problem until you discover a group of people who love the exact same thing. Whatever your obsession, chances are you're not alone. Find people who love what you love so you can share information and talk about it for hours. Whether you're an avid supporter of a certain sports team, an early fan of an actor, or spend every night playing a certain video game, chances are there are others who love the same obsession.
15. Don't let this obsession limit your view of the world.
An obsession only becomes a problem when it starts to absorb all your time and energy leaving no room for anything else. You are the only person who can know what enough is enough. If the object of your obsession brings you pleasure and you still have time to take care of your basic needs and maintain your friendships, you can let it run its course. But if your obsession feels like it's limiting you, stop adding fuel to the fire and give yourself a chance to enjoy something else for a while.
- Try new activities to take your mind off your obsession, such as spending time with friends, reading a book or learning to play an instrument.
- Don't just put it away; you have to deal with it.
- Take it easy if you have to. You don't have to stop all at once.
- Don't be afraid or ashamed.
- Think of it as a challenge that you must win!
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction are both real problems for many people. If you simply can't control your obsessions and it's hurting you and the people around you, seek professional help immediately.
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