How To Manage Obsessive Thoughts

Having obsessive thoughts is common in the general population. We are thinking beings and we must normalize the fact of harboring a multitude of random ideas.

The problem appears when they become manic and limit daily functioning. This usually happens because the person places too much value or importance on thinking about something.

In this way, the thought goes from being a simple mental event to becoming a problem of a psychological nature that often prevents the sufferer from leading a normal life. It should be borne in mind that, in general, it tends to affect very perfectionist and responsible people, sometimes excessively.

Let’s dive into it in the next article.

To think or not to think? There is the question

Obsessive thinking

Obsessive thoughts can be very annoying. Remember all those times when the “song of the summer” has totally stuck in your mind. In fact, the more you tried not to listen to it and hum it, the more forcefully it interrupted your life. 

With obsessive thoughts, just this happens. The idea of ​​”not thinking” paradoxically has a rebound effect, so that thought acquires greater force. Therefore, the key is to learn to watch them from the outside, as spectators.

This exercise is not easy at all. We have already explained that obsessions are very uncomfortable and the natural thing is to try to eliminate them from the head to get rid of anxiety. This is where compulsions come into play: motor acts that neutralize the discomfort and cause the obsession to descend.

In the short term they may seem to work, but in the long run the solution becomes the real problem.  One becomes dependent on these compulsions and uses them to eliminate obsessions, thereby reinforcing them.

Strategies for managing obsessive thoughts

The idea is not to fall into compulsion as a means of neutralizing thoughts, and not to avoid them. Therefore, the strategies that have worked best to date to manage obsessive thoughts are the following:

Cognitive defusion

Defusing yourself cognitively from mental events means “knowing how to separate your thoughts from reality and yourself, according to this study by a team from Georgia State University. That is, it is necessary to know that you are not your thoughts, but much more.

The fact that they exist does not make them real. They are only psychological content, images, sounds or perceptions, but not objective realities. Therefore, it does not make sense to act according to ideas that do not correspond to reality.

It is much more functional to treat thoughts as entities that you do not like, watch them pass (greet them, even) and stay with them, until they decrease in intensity.

Reduce the value granted

You don’t have to give importance to a thought just because you have it. We have already said that thinking is eminently human, just like dreaming.

We all have thoughts that we would be ashamed to acknowledge or tell, but that does not mean that they are important or that they define us in any way. Therefore, a good way is to decrease the value we place on thinking.

Embrace your thoughts

Not only do you not have to run away from your thoughts, but you also have to try to do the mental exercise of embracing them. Embracing your inner demons means being open to the experience of having them present, even if you don’t like them.

That will give you greater power over yourself and your strength.

Inhibit compulsions

This part is essential. Compulsions are ritualistic behaviors that are performed in response to something that generates anxiety. For every compulsion you make, you are agreeing with the thought. That is, you are carrying out a real act based on a mental idea.

The same goes for obsessive ideas. Reality and mind are two different worlds, which do not have to go together. As suggested by this research carried out by a team from the University of Cambridge , it  is necessary to make an effort to inhibit the compulsion so as not to further fuel the obsessive thoughts.

Seek professional help

The best way to deal with this problem is with the help of a psychologist. This will help you better manage your thoughts and will give you guidelines so that, little by little, you will improve.

With their strategies, your inner strength and the support of your loved ones, you can learn to control your obsessive thoughts and they will not have the opportunity to continue hurting you.

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