How to Stop Obsessive Thoughts?

Written by: Arooj Paulus – B. Sc (Psychology)

Last updated date : September 29, 2022

Table of Contents Article title – Perfectionism
  1. Chapter 1
  2. Chapter 2
  3. Chapter 3
  4. Chapter 4
  5. Chapter 5
  6. Chapter 6
  7. Chapter 7
  8. Chapter 8

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Dealing with obsessive thoughts can be challenging for you. Are you stuck in the cycle of obsessive thoughts? Do you feel like you can not help your thought pattern? Is it disabling for you? If you have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), you may find it difficult to figure out how to stop having recurrent thoughts. When you will be able to recognize and learn the pattern of recurrent thoughts, you will be better able to break their vicious cycle.

In this article, we will discuss obsessive thoughts, their cycle, and ways to stop the cycle of obsessive thoughts. In the end, we advise you to engage in a mindful activity to help you concentrate on being in the present.

Let us get some insight into the thought patterns first.

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Chapter 1:

What Are Obsessive Thoughts?

An obsessive thought repeats itself and is constantly there in the back of your mind. They are bothersome and unwanted. They affect your functioning and heath so are disabling.

However, not all thoughts are obsessive. For instance, if a person gets sick he becomes cautious about keeping himself clean to avoid more diseases as the body is already weak. But when someone has obsessive thoughts, they are constantly afraid of being infected or exposed to germs. They might change their way of life to accommodate their obsessive thoughts, such as forbidding them from touching surfaces when in public. They may think “This surface is dirty”, “I must avoid touching things in a public place”, “What if the door I opened at the office had dangerous germs” etc. While the unsettling thoughts keep coming.

Excessive worry frequently goes hand in hand with obsessive thoughts. People may use a range of harmful coping ways, such as anger, compulsions, or social withdrawal, to deal with their anxiety.

OCD sufferers usually have recurrent thoughts, which can harm their health.

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Chapter 2:

The Cycle of Obsessive Thoughts

An OCD sufferer feels compelled to make a reaction in their brain and act on it. Rather than being unaffected by a fleeting thought. They become increasingly anxious as they ponder on the thought longer which affects their daily functioning. It includes a recurrent pattern of fear, worry, obsessions, and compulsions (rituals and routines).

For instance, Sam fears getting sick, he constantly thinks about being exposed to germs, so he makes compulsions by keeping himself clean. This makes him think about sickness even more. Hence he feels stuck.

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Chapter 3:

Ways to Stop Obsessive Thoughts?

Everyone sometimes has unusual or undesirable thoughts. Overthinking is normal, but obsessive thoughts are far worse and more persistent. So can obsessive thoughts go away? Thoughts come and go, but they only cause trouble when we act on the irrational ones. We validate your feelings and thoughts. Here are some of the tips to stop obsessive thoughts.

1. Getting Insight and Awareness

By being aware of your obsessive thoughts, you can learn more about them and discover why they arise. This will enable you to put a stop to them.

Obsessions are our mind’s reaction to stress, worry, or fear. They frequently result from learned tendencies or events, whether conscious or not. Following are a few common causes, such as:

  • if you are under stress, such as from a divorce or relationship problems, etc.
  • When thinking back to anything that happened in the past.
  • When going through major life transitions, like getting married or graduating.
  • Hearing any bad news might also upset you e.g. loss of someone close to you.

So we recommend dealing with the upsetting situation as a root cause which is causing all this trouble.

2. Identify Your Cognitive Distortions

The majority of irrational thoughts are the cause of obsessive thoughts. A person who is having obsessive thoughts may feel them as facts, but they are all purely subjective. Distorted thinking patterns cause you to see things from a certain lens. So therapy focuses on modifying these negative things patterns into positive ones. Below are a few instances of these:

(i) Fallacies of control: Believing that you can influence a specific person, event, or its results.

For instance, Sam believes he can control getting sick if he keeps himself clean.

(ii) Catastrophizing: Such people imagine the worst-case situation that can occur.

For instance, Sam may also believe that if he gets sick he will die (health anxiety).

(iii) Should and Must Statements: Even though it happened in the past, these people feel that they ought to have known better or made a different decision.

For instance, Sam may think continuously that he must keep himself and his surroundings clean. So he will constantly feel under pressure to perform as required.

3. Challenging and Modifying (Break the Cycle)

So once you have recognized the cognitive distortions in the way you think it will be easier to modify them into more reasonable thoughts. People can then discover fresher, more sensible thoughts by questioning and challenging obsessive thoughts to stop them.

You can investigate and analyze your thoughts. Addressing some questions carefully can help with this. For instance, you may yourself questions like

  • What proof does this idea have?
  • Can the event be viewed in a different way?
  • What positive and negative effects does this thought have on one’s present reality?

Many people discover that by just evaluating their thoughts, they can see that there are various ways to understand them.

4. Naming the Fears

With every obsessive thought, there comes a fear or worry. Whereas the worries differ as they are frequently driven by a feeling of loss, rejection, or general safety. However, people sometimes exaggerate the truth since it is the only reality they can concentrate on.

Recognizing and acknowledging the fear might be helpful for people who are engaged in the self-defeating cycle of obsessive thoughts to stop them from coming.

For instance, every obsessive thought has a fear theme. Such as Emma has a fear of being overweight. So she constantly thinks what if I get fat and get a serious illness due to being overweight. Or others might not love me due to how I look.

Although these fears are constant you can challenge them by questioning, if they are valid and how can you look for solutions to the problem.

5. Practicing Acceptance

Acceptance is allowing things to be as they are in the present. It is not attempting to alter or in any other way exert control over reality. It may seem strange to accept obsessive thoughts. And besides, the thoughts are unpleasant!

The idea is not to suppress the thought but let it come, acknowledge it, validate it and let it go. This is what we call mindfulness. Allow your mind to wander.

Tip: You can practice detached mindfulness. Allow your thoughts to come as you practice deep breathing. Think of your thoughts as clouds that come and go. These thoughts deserve to be noticed, paid attention to, and accepted without any judgment. Do not be too harsh on yourself.

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Chapter 4:

Call to Action

You can read “Overthinking – Stop Overthinking and Worrying Too Much” or “Chronic Worry about the Future – How to Break the Cycle”, under the section on strengths and weaknesses at Epsychonline. To help learn about obsessive thoughts and how to stop them.

Further, you can enroll in the Perfectionism and “Managing Irrational Beliefs (IBs)” courses on our website. If your obsessive-compulsive symptoms focus on checking, unhealthy perfectionism is likely to be prevalent. Further, irrational beliefs and thoughts are a characteristic of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The mentioned courses will help you to manage your obsessive thoughts and break their cycle to stop them.

We hope this article was helpful to you. Sign up now for more learning.

Reviews 4.1

Learn evidence-based scientific ways to overcoming perfectionism.

87 Lessons

6 hours

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

€9.00 €12.00

25% discount