Obsessive thoughts are a struggle for so many. If left unchecked, however, these obsessive thoughts can play over and over in your head like a record that has a scratch. Your thoughts can change depending on the situation. But once they’ve entered your mind, you may not be able to get rid of them.
Some examples of obsessive thoughts are:
- Fear of getting sick or dying.
- Anxiety over cleanliness and organization.
- Worry over forgetting something (Did I lock the door?).
If you struggle with obsessive thoughts, you may also worry about the future. In Matthew 6:34, Jesus said, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Some things are out of your control. But in this passage, He encourages you to trust Him. In recovery, we learn what we have control over and how to surrender the things we don’t have control over. It is helpful to consider what is behind the obsession.
Why not just stop thinking about these thoughts? Interestingly, research shows trying hard to not think about something may cause you to think about it more. Why? Because when you focus on avoiding a thought, you’re reminding your brain that the thought exists, rather than simply forgetting about it and moving on. It’s a strange way that the brain works, making it very hard for you to end your obsessive thoughts and take control. But there are some things that you can do.
See a therapist. A licensed counselor can look at any underlying reasons why you struggle with obsessive thoughts, as well as find the best solution to overcoming them. Find a therapist who can do cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is the most widely-used therapy for anxiety disorders. Research has shown that therapy is effective in the treatment of panic disorders, social anxiety disorders, and generalized anxiety disorders, among other things. Therapy will address negative patterns and distortions in the way you look at the world and yourself.
Accept your thoughts. A bad, random thought does not make you a bad person—it’s just a thought. You don’t have to make it bigger than it is. Allow your thoughts to be, and don’t try to run from them. Focus on your breathing while your thoughts come into your mind. Connect with someone you trust and talk about what you have been focused on. Be gentle with yourself, and don’t let these thoughts make you feel ashamed about yourself. When we connect with others we discover that we have support.
Reframe your thoughts. Start by writing your thoughts in a journal—to reframe your thoughts, you need to first understand what your obsessive thoughts are. Then fact check your thoughts by asking yourself, “Is this real?” Or, “What proof do I have that it’s going to happen?” In response, you can remind yourself of the truth. You could say, “These thoughts are not the most accurate thoughts because…” Reframing your thoughts can help you accept the situation; as a result, your obsessive thoughts will no longer control you.
When you find yourself stuck in obsessive thoughts, you can try these things. If you continue to struggle with negative thought loops that are impacting your emotional well-being, you must see a counselor. Call 800-639-5433 to find a licensed counselor in your area. With the help of a counselor and a few changes in your life, you can learn how to respond to your obsessive thoughts so they no longer take over your life.