Obsessive thinking and intrusive thoughts are major symptoms for many people who suffer with an anxiety disorder. Obsessive thinking usually involves scary, intrusive thoughts and/or images that are not always followed by compulsions. Some consider this to be the same as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder but without the compulsions. Obsessive-Scary thoughts are considered by many to be one of the most tormenting symptoms of anxiety to overcome. Thoughts ruminate over and over and the more the sufferer tries to stop thinking them, the more they persist. Thoughts may be repulsive, scary, vulgar , or anything that the sufferer feels is inappropriate. Because these thoughts are unwanted, it creates an enormous amount of anxiety trying to get rid of them.
“Obsessive Intrusive Thoughts are defined as unwelcome, involuntary thoughts, images or unpleasant ideas that may become obsessions, are upsetting or distressing, and can be difficult to be free of and manage. Intrusive thoughts, and images are usually of inappropriate things at inappropriate times, usually falling into three categories: inappropriate aggressive thoughts, inappropriate sexual thoughts, or blasphemous religious thoughts. Most people experience these types of thoughts; however, when they are associated with an anxiety disorder such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, they may become paralyzing, panic-provoking, and persistent.”
Breaking the cycle of obsessive thinking isn’t easy but it can be done with a determined attitude, repetitious self-talk, and guided visualization methods.
People with anxiety and/or depressive disorders often suffer with repetitive scary, uncomfortable, racing, thoughts. With obsessive thinking, exhausted minds will hold onto thoughts that seem scary, unnatural or even obscene.
In the attempt to rid yourself of these thoughts, they just persists even more. Obsessive thinking makes a person feel like they are not in control of their own thoughts and people have also believed the lie that they are somehow “losing it” or “going crazy” or actually going to carry out the scary thoughts they think or visually see in their mind’s eye. Believing these lies only result in more anxiety , therefore, the cycle continues no matter how hard a person tries.
Overcoming scary thoughts like this takes patience and persistence. You can bring balance to your obsessive thinking and end the anxiety it can bring.
The steps you can take to help break the cycle of repetitive, scary thoughts.
1. Revisualization – take a few times throughout the day where you can sit comfortably and visualize your scary thoughts in a more less threatening way. You can use humor or stupidity to downplay those thoughts to less frightening thoughts. Whenever the thought pops into your head throughout the day, remember your NEW visual and take the time to picture them differently.
2. Positive Self-Talk – use self-talk that reassures you that you would never carry out the thoughts you think. You have the power to DO or NOT DO anything you want. Remind yourself that it’s okay that those thoughts are there. Do not resist them…. accept them as just “thoughts” and nothing more. They cannot hurt you or make you do anything you don’t want to do.
3. Shrink the chatter box! – see your obsessive thinking as nothing but thoughts. These thoughts are nothing but a loud chatter box that never shuts up and the more it irritates you, the stronger and louder it gets. Realize that you can shrink the chatter box, simply by accepting that it’s there and downsizing the importance of what it’s saying. The better you get at doing this, the more you will realize that your repetitive thoughts fade into the background and become less threatening and important to you.
4. Thought Stopping– Thought stopping is a technique that is highly effective when used alone or when used in conjunction with the other steps listed here.
It is not uncommon for people to think that it won’t work for them, but I assure you that if you work hard, you can feel comfortable again in your own mind. Some people need the aid of a therapist, coach or even medication and this is completely acceptable. See your doctor or coach for further help. This is what they are there for!
I want to be sure that you know that all people experience random thoughts on a regular basis. They are thoughts that don’t really mean anything, they just come in and go out. The problem with the anxious person is that they are more sensitive and aware of these thoughts and when they find a thought that is scary, obscene or “wrong”, they pull it aside and pick it apart and try to analyze why they are having it. Instead of “letting it go” and dismissing it for the very fact that it has no importance, they dissect it looking for reasons.
The main cause for obsessive scary thoughts is exhaustion and stress and they can be overcome with education, understanding, support.
A helpful book in regards to obsessive thinking is called “The Imp of the Mind: Exploring the Silent Epidemic of Obsessive Bad Thoughts ” by Lee Baer, Ph.D. This particular book focuses primarily on obsessive/intrusive thoughts and less on “compulsions” found in Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder. Since many of us experience scary/repetitive thoughts, this book is best suited for the person who doesn’t have compulsions but mainly obsessive/scary thoughts.