5 Proven Ways To Stop Obsessive Thoughts

If you are at all the analytical type then it is likely that you will have experienced obsessive thoughts more than once in your life. Perhaps these were about a particular girl that you liked (something we more commonly term “oneitus”). Or maybe they were about something your boss said to you, or around a sporting event in which you wish you’d performed better.

Whatever the subject matter, if you find that thoughts keep repeating themselves in your head, or if you keep returning to the same mental scenario trying to find a different way around it in vain, then you need to snap out of it. Obsessive thoughts are exhausting, drain your brain of the RAM necessary to tackle other, more important issues, and generally have an adverse effect on the quality of your life. Luckily, there are a few simple hints that will help you to keep the problem under control.

What Are Obsessive Thoughts?


For many mental health professional, obsessive thoughts are a symptom of anxiety just as much as physical symptoms such as nervous tics, sleeplessness, sweating, and so on. Therefore, if you are given to “catastophising” when you give in to obsessive thought—that is, imagining the very worst outcome possible in a given situation, then the first thing you must realise is that what your mind is telling you is the result of a condition and is therefore not necessarily objectively “true.”

It is a mixed blessing that our minds are extremely powerful instruments that are able to fabricate the most dire and inordinate consequences from the smallest of triggers. Thus, if you think you might have left the gas on then you will then imagine your house being burned down, your financial and insurance documents going up in smoke, and important property from your company being damaged, leaving you penniless and sleeping under a bridge, doing card tricks (or worse) for cash to survive. If you want to elaborate further you may then imagine picking up some disease and dying horribly of it in the street.

Of course, none of this is in any way close to the reality of the situation. It is a spiral of fantasy that the obsessive thinker allows himself to get into, partly because such a downward spiral of thought can be oddly addictive and compelling, producing a trance-like state in the sufferer.

If you find yourself entertaining such patterns of thought then you need to strike back with evasive action in order to seize control again.

1. Identify the distortions in your thinking


First, monitor your thinking at all times and be aware when it is not presenting facts or situation as they really are.

In The OCD Workbook, Bruce M. Hyman, Ph.D., and Cherry Pedrick, RN list the following ways in which obsessive thinkers can warp reality when they fix on a particular person or situation.

  • Overestimating risk, harm and danger
  • Over-control and perfectionism
  • Catastrophizing
  • Black and white or all-or-nothing thinking
  • Persistent doubting
  • Magical thinking
  • Superstitious thinking
  • Intolerance of uncertainty
  • Over-responsibility
  • Pessimistic bias
  • What-if thinking
  • Intolerance of anxiety
  • Extraordinary cause and effect

If any of these sound familiar to you then take note and realise that your thinking may well be at fault. Simply by recognizing this intellectually, you will do much to quell the tide of unhelpful thought and speculation.

2. Accept, and know that it will pass


As with many things in life, once you have identified that your thinking is obsessive and out of control around a particular topic, accept that this is the case. Don’t try to fight it immediately. Just realise that you are prone to a very common phenomenon, and don’t give yourself a hard time. Accept, too, that obsessive patterns of thought can be difficult to break. Cut yourself some slack.

In accepting your faulty thought patterns, though, you should also take some solace from the fact that “this too shall pass.” On average, I will think really obsessively about something for maybe two, three days maximum. After that it will lose something of its sting, and my mind will slowly move on to other things. So no matter how bad things seem at the moment, it will get better naturally in time.

3. Change your physical state

hot tub

A great way to break the pattern of obsessive thoughts is to change your physical state. The most obvious—and best—way of accomplishing this is through exercise, of course. Going out for a run or going to the gym for a weights session will help no end. The endorphins that exercise introduce into the body are brilliant for breaking up unhelpful thought patterns and offering a new perspective.

Another technique that is very powerful is going into water. This could mean swimming, but equally, a jacuzzi or plunge pool is great too. Saunas and steam rooms can also help. There is something about changing the elements around the body that seems to have a deep effect on the way thought patterns emerge and progress.

4. Substitute


Don’t leave this one to chance. What you should plan to do is to have a substitute thought ready to focus on when the thing you’re trying not to dwell on enters your mind.

For example, right now I have a legal dispute going on. For days the particulars of the case would keep coming into my mind and I would imagine all the possible consequences of this or that eventuality. All a complete waste of brain RAM, since I can’t accurately guess exactly what is going to happen in the future.

Then, when I found out about this concept of substitution, I resolved that whenever the case came into my mind, I would substitute it with the though “I’m on holiday,” and would dwell instead on the more positive fact that it is nearly Christmas and I am indeed on vacation.

While this can be tricky to do effectively at first, once you’ve practised a few times you’ll find that the mind shifts more easily into the area that you want it to.

5. Keep Busy


Perhaps the most effective way of avoiding pointless obsessive thoughts is simply to focus on something else. Ideally, this should be challenging and involved enough to “turn your head off” to the other subject matter, at least for the duration of the time you’re working on it. Anything sufficiently engrossing will do—designing, writing, playing or composing music, learning a language, building a website.

The other advantage of this approach is that you will actually be doing something constructive. Rather than focusing on something uncertain, which you are obsessing about precisely because it is something you can’t control, you are instead working on something that should give you satisfaction, and will thus increase the overall quality of your life.

Read More: The Personality Trait That May Be Hurting Your Chances With Hot Women Right Now 

46 thoughts on “5 Proven Ways To Stop Obsessive Thoughts”

  1. I say bullshit. These thoughts are there because they want to get attention. Give it to them instead of pushing them away. Rationality is ill-advised as it is often not a known truth, but conditioned thinking as well.
    Example: Blue pill man obsessively thinks that he has been lied to. Your advice is for him to stay ‘reasonable’ and keep believing the lies.
    Reality matters less than understanding what these thoughts and feelings mean to you. Meditation helps with this stuff.
    If you keep pushing them away, you are only putting more stuff on a big pile of suppressed important topics. Pushing them away is incidentally the best way to stay a slave to what others tell you is ‘real’ or ‘true’.

    1. I agree with you. You have to literally grind these thoughts out. That is the only sure way to get over it. A difference though. The author is right in a sense.. There are several types of situations.. One is what happened in the past, and this is what I referred to when I said you have to grind them out. The other situation is when you have no control over what is happening in your life. The article is correct in that respect. If there is not much you can do, just wait it out and make the best out of the situation. Do everything that’s in your power, and let everything else go to wherever is going.. I have a mantra so to speak, and it helped me a lot: I’ll worry about (insert anything here) when it happens. Until then, I’ll just sit it out…

      1. The point is that you can not control which thoughts you will have at what time. The stoic approach is kinda respected in point 2 of this article, but it sounds more like: Meh, accept they are there and try to ignore them.
        It is a bit like with pain. The best way to get over it is to go through it. But I see that there are situations where you perhaps can not – or dare not – indulge in all your thoughts and then you need to think about it later.
        My point is that many of these thoughts likely have a validity. But the validity usually does not lie in ‘Is this factually correct?’ Rather, when a thought comes up and you are not sure how to deal with it, ask your subconscious: What does this thought mean to me? And that way, you can come to understand why you hold all the thoughts and beliefs that you do.

        1. Well, but you also have to realize that everything you perceive is your mind. So while the article suggest to eliminate ‘irrational beliefs’, one is wise to actually question whether they are so irrational at all.

    2. The clue is in ‘obsessive’ – obsessing over something is never a good thing and you should strive to avoid it.
      I wouldn’t advise the blue pill man to believe lies. Yes, of course, you should examine any given situation carefully and decide on the most appropriate course of action.
      What you shouldn’t do is obsess over something once you’ve done everything you can and can do no more – that is counterproductive and a waste of mental energy.

      1. You think that you can determine lies without considering all arguments carefully. You can not. If these thoughts are obsessive, as they used to be for me, they are a signal for something.

  2. I like these. I would add this however: act slowly and with intention. Have you ever just DONE something or said something you wish you could take back? Try not to. Try to encounter each and every situation and before saying something stop, think, then say it. Before acting the same. Think of Bogart. Loads he might say if he just opened his mouth and shit it all out but every word and deed is measured and calculated. Plus, you stub your toes less.

    1. ^This. The only problem is taking this to an extreme as well. I was on the far end of the spectrum where I would analyze a situation so much that I never acted upon it. Sometimes it worked to my advantage (the person in question eventually hung themselves, figuratively speaking), but a lot of other times, I missed out on opportunities or exacerbated situations because I didn’t act soon enough. It’s a fine line we must walk.

      1. Agreed about the dangers and the fine line….but when you find it it is great. I started with small things. Like I wear a suit to work. I consciously button or unbutton my jacket with my left hand. Arbitrary I guess. But I make sure that even a stupid little act like that isn’t done without thinking. I also contract abs when I walk and if someone says something to me I never rush what I am saying….build suspense. After all, like the bard says, all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. If I am to play the role of lolknee I want it to be a cool role. Can you imagine Connery James Bond or Steve McQueen losing their head and doing something without deliberation?

        1. Ah, that is what you mean. But I would say that the opposite of what you do is not to ‘not think’. Rather, it is compulsive conditioned standard reactions you want to avoid.

  3. Also: replace worry with “positive worry,” ie fantasizing about positive outcomes. Your brain will respond to this just as it does to negative worry. It is a machine that needs to be fed…make positivity its default.

    1. Said it before, will say it again: best screenname and thumbnail on the internet.
      Your posts could just be you hitting the keyboard with your elbow and I’d give you an upvote

        1. this will last a while.
          that’s because there’s more people than a ball game in here

  4. Thanks for this, this is something I struggle with from time to time. I find saying to myself, “What ever happens I’ll handle it.” helps me.

  5. Nice. This is something I struggle with daily. I have intense anxiety over my financial irresponsibility, namely when there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s gotten better, worrying about it does nothing. Funny thing is, it clouds the mind and I make even more mistakes when I let it control me.

    1. Just curious, what type of financial irresponsibility, and why do you say there’s nothing you can do about it? If you care to share perhaps some of us could offer some insight…

  6. Not a criticism but, this all sounds suspiciously like the Kubler-Ross Grief/Acceptance Cycle only re-ordered as:
    Depression, Acceptance, Bargaining, Anger, Denial.
    Number 3 in particular is something women and “metrosexual” males do, almost verbatim, and for this particular coping reason. Men should strive to be active by default.
    It can be good to get your mind off of problems for a while, but that time should be spent regrouping and finding workable fixes to the problem or reassessing it as a priority. The things unworthy of your time and attention should be discarded as should concerns which are without solutions (EDIT: as J. Hue posted: “Fuck it!”).
    There was also an old saying (or maybe a prayer?) that went something like (paraphrasing):
    Give me strength to accept what I can’t change, courage to change what I can, and wisdom to tell the difference. Pretty much all you need.

    1. “It can be good to get your mind off of problems for a while, but that time should be spent regrouping and finding workable fixes to the problem or reassessing it as a priority. ”
      Agree on this. I have never felt happier as when I am actively creating the life I want to live. Sitting around thinking about how life could be or actively escaping reality through alcohol or video games keeps you depressed. Men, take a step EVERY DAY in the right direction, be it fitness, financial, spiritual, etc and you will feel infinitely better than if you say around doing nothing.

      1. That is the thing. Take action. A small step. You have a monumental objective and it may seem nearly impossible at first. Take one small step towards it so it becomes a habit. Then, take another small step forward so that becomes a habit. Now you’re doing 2 positive things out of habit and not thinking it’s a burden. Repeat the cycle and one day you’ll look at old photos and realize how far you’ve progressed and it really wasn’t even that hard after all.

    2. Sometimes there is not even a problem – but ironically, the only thing that matters to you is what your own beliefs say. So if you think there is a problem, it is important to first stop denying it. And then you may find that there is no problem.

  7. I categorize obsessive thoughts with anxiety which I think is a misleading term.
    Anxiety is really just your body preparing to “Get ‘er Done”. Once you look at it as a natural boost it’s easier to use that energy for the task at hand.
    I have music students that get nervous before their first concert and I tell them that it’s just their bodies natural way of telling you it wants to perform the best it can and your minds way of saying it wants to do the best it can.

  8. Nice article. People in our day and age are very separate from awareness let alone control of their own minds. This is just a small piece, but it’s part of the foundation so it’s paramount.

  9. Plus one to keep busy. Idol hands and all that don’t necessarily make the devil’s work but what they do is make you lazy. Think about what you could have done with the two weeknights that you binged watched Netflix instead of actually doing something? That is easily 10-12 hours of wasted time that you will NEVER get back. If that is your habit for a month you have essentially wasted more then an entire work week of time.
    In about 40-50 hours worth of time, watching mostly Youtube videos, and playing around with my home network, I taught myself how to build a local area network (LAN) from the ground up from fishing cable through walls to the details of what you need to have on your rack. (I know not for everyone but this is just an example). I have since been able to apply these skills not only to be able to wire up my own home, but to do some night work with a friend who is a contractor and needed someone reliable who could do this type of work. I do 1-3 gigs a month for him and gross about a grand a month for what is maybe 10 hours worth of work. It looks like this year I will have supplemented by own income by about $10,000 gross just for doing some extra weekday evening work.
    Don’t let your mind go idol. Always own your reality. Spend your time doing something, anything constructive.

  10. Sometimes it’s an organic, biochemical brain disorder, in which case trying to think your way out of obsessive thoughts is like trying to think your way out of diabetes.

  11. Very helpful tips. The “oneitus” mentioned in the article has plagued me quite a bit for some time, and I have been trying my best to get rid of it. There has been a girl unattainable to me who has obsessively clouded my thoughts every single day since May of last year. She is easily the most beautiful and perfect girl I have ever seen in my life, and the moment I first saw her, something just “clicked” in my mind and hasn’t been quite the same since. But I’ve found that focusing harder on my work and on gaming other, more attainable girls has really helped to alleviate those obsessive thoughts if not completely get rid of them.

  12. This article is tagged as ‘psychiatric’ being about OCD. If you look right after the comments between the ‘also on ROK’ section and the ‘top 5 posts’ section, there’s a stream of ads for psychiatric services, all of them pharmaco pill pushers. The only pill that works is the red pill. I never see holistic remedy ads or fluoride conspiracy links posted, only the mainline pushers. It would be nice to see ad space bought and red pill/neomasculinity themed ads make inroads everywhere. The insurnace ads are the craziest. They have to use the most illogical pomp to sell toilet paper.

  13. Thats seventy times less than what a geigenwerk maker makes and way too many hours for absolutely no fame.

  14. This is why i love this site. Folks here are knowledgeable on many topics, things that would consume a man’s mind. Besides what have been written, clinging to your responsibilities also works. ” I must pass this lesson, I broke with my girlfriend but I am responsible to do that, because my family pays for university”.

  15. Excessive OCD tendencies can also be related to brain biochemistry. Glutamate is one of the Excitatory neurotransmitters that is associated with repetitive behaviors/thinking as well as addictions. N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) a derivative of the amino acid Cysteine has been demonstrated to help modulate levels of glutamate in the brain and appears to have a calming effect on certain neurons associated with poor neuropsychological health. NAC seems to give these neurons some time to calm down and it also raises glutathione levels in the brain, which improves the antioxidant status. Oxidative stress has been associated with a range of neurological disorders.
    The above techniques are certainly valuable but sometimes there can be biological causes of these things too, so “mind over matter” isn’t always enough. Anyway thought I’d make a point about NAC if that interests anyone. It’s a cheap and safe supplement to use and there is a growing amount of medical interest in it for a range of health conditions. For instance it’s been used as a detoxifier for paracetamol overdoses, fitness junkies use it for liver protection from steroid use or reducing muscle damage from exercise, people use it to prevent hangovers, a general immune system stimulant and more recently people have been using it for a range of chronic health problems due its strong antioxidant and detoxification properties. It can be worth looking into

  16. Thought is functional. If life needs thought it will bring it to work, otherwise it will remain as a dormant function. Just let it be there and let life handle it.

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