Obsessive thoughts are part of a variety of anxiety disorders. These obsessive and intrusive thoughts are always negative and involve scary images that do not always lead to compulsive behavior but do cripple a person's ability to function normally. These thoughts are linked to one's fears and emotions and the existence of these thoughts cause further anxiety. Rumination is a common issue for people suffering from obsessive thinking and this only makes the situation worse without providing any solutions. It can intensify the negative thoughts and take over the person's emotional state.
How to Stop Obsessive Thoughts
Identify the Thought
This is the very first step in dealing with obsessive thinking. One has to identify the thought that is causing them anxiety. Is it their fears or is it because of the doubts they are having? It is easier to describe the thought in as few words as possible. Once a person has named and identified the obsessive thought, they can break its power over them.
Find the Distortion
There are different types of obsessive thinking. When a person has identified their obsessive thought, it will help them to classify what type of thought it is. It can be all or nothing thinking, jumping to conclusions, exaggeration or deprecating positive emotions. Classifying the thought helps the individual in finding a solution to it and eventually getting rid of it altogether.
Record It in the Journal
Keeping a journal for one's obsessive thought is a good way to minimize the effects on the individual's life. It helps to dedicate a time of the day where the person allows themselves to obsess over their thought and write them down in the journal. This also helps in stemming down obsessive thoughts throughout the rest of one's day.
Dig for the Cause
Most obsessive thoughts that people have are caused by some other deep, underlying issue. By figuring out the main cause of these thoughts, a person can break free of obsessive thinking.
Snap out of It
A technique used by many people is to wear a rubber band around one's wrist and snap it against the skin when the thoughts get too much to handle. You'll know how to stop obsessive thoughts by the reminding of the slight pain from snapping the rubber band.
Visualize a Stop Sign
When an individual is having obsessive thoughts, visualize driving a car and when the thoughts take hold, imagine seeing a stop sign and pulling over. After assessing what needs to be changed and what all is fine as it is, the person imagines themselves getting back in the car and driving away.
Interrupt the Thought
Obsessive thoughts tend to repeat on a loop and become more than what is actually true. A great way of breaking this cycle is to interrupt the thought. Throwing out a question or thinking about an entirely different topic can help to stop the obsession. Find one activity to focus on and use that as a distraction from the obsessive thoughts.
Take away the Lesson
People with obsessive thoughts tend to ruminate over the mistakes they have made and this increases their anxiety levels. Taking the lesson instead of blaming oneself is the first step to learn how to stop obsessive thoughts. By focusing on the lesson from the mistake, one can move past the mistake and stop obsessing over it.
Try to Forgive
This is the next step after learning the lesson. When the person focuses on the lesson that they have learned from their mistake, they can move on to forgiving themselves for making that mistake in the first place.
Occasionally, accepting the problem and realizing that there is no solution helps in detaching from the thoughts. By becoming indifferent, a person can break the constant ruminating of their thoughts and break free.
Many people have obsessive thoughts about things that they do not know enough about. A great way of controlling these thoughts is to put them on hold till the person has more information to go on.
For many people, obsessive thoughts are exaggerated versions of small criticisms about them. Talking to a friend can help the person identifying which negative aspects are highly exaggerated and which are downright untrue.
Stay in the Moment
People with obsessive thoughts tend to focus on their past mistakes or on their future. These thoughts further exacerbate the anxiety. It helps to focus on the present and think about what is happening right at that moment.
Be Physically Active
You can learn how to stop obsessive thoughts by being physically active. Exercising not only produces the feel-good hormone endorphin, but also helps in diverting the attention away from obsessive thoughts by focusing on the body and the coordination required in sports.
Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This is a stress management exercise and has been proven to reduce anxiety and stop obsessive thoughts. It usually involves deep breathing as a way to counteract anxious shallow breathing. This activity can be done alone or with other people in a group.