- How to Stop Obsessive Thinking
- Understand What Obsessive Thinking Is
- Recognize the Pattern and Name Them
- Accept that Thoughts are Largely Out of Your Control
- Explore Meditation and Mindfulness Benefits
- Reach Out to a Professional if Needed
- 7 Ways to Stop Obsessing
- How to Stop Obsessive Thoughts and Anxiety
- All Types of Anxiety Can Lead to Obsessive Thoughts
- Obsessions from OCD
- The More You Try To Stop Them
- Obsessive Thoughts in Other Anxiety Disorders
- How to Stop Obsessive Thoughts
- Get Used to the Anxiety
- Cause Your Own Anxiety
- Not All Obsessive Thoughts Are An Anxiety Disorder
- The Overall Solution to Obsessive Thoughts
- Obsessive Love Disorder
How to Stop Obsessive Thinking
It’s a regular Tuesday evening when I realize my Talkspace therapist, who consistently answers twice a day, didn’t respond a second time that night. A fleeting thought darts through my head: “What if she died?” With my life-long history of obsessive-compulsive disorder, I am no stranger to such macabre thoughts, so I dismiss it. It’s just a thought without evidence.
Soon the thought pops back into my mind. I open the Talkspace app on my phone. No message, but it’s probably nothing. I answered her too late in the day, she’s busy, she’s taking a well-deserved night off, her app isn’t working…All reasonable explanations.
Not two seconds later, the thought’s back, and even with all my years of therapy and an arsenal of coping skills for moments just like this, that thought grabs me hook, line, and sinker. I launch into a full-blown panic, which eventually proves to be unfounded when my therapist messages me as usual the next morning.
Does this anecdote sound familiar? It’s just one example of obsessive thinking, and I’m confident we’ve all had a version of this experience at some point. These types of thoughts are unhelpful at best, and debilitating at worst.
“Rumination can be a problem because it rarely offers new insights or solutions on how to handle a situation,” writes psychotherapist Jodee Virgo for The Everygirl. “Instead it emotionally hijacks us and intensifies our negative feelings.”
To stop obsessive thinking in its tracks, with our without the often-associated compulsions, here’s what you can do.
Understand What Obsessive Thinking Is
Obsessive thinking is a series of thoughts that typically recur, often paired with negative judgements. Many times there is an inability to control these persistent, distressing thoughts and the severity can range from mild but annoying, to all-encompassing and debilitating. These thoughts can be unflattering self-judgements such as “I’m not good enough,” to worry over small details like forgetting to turn off the oven or lock the door, to more serious ruminations such as fear of falling fatally ill or hurting loved ones.
Obsessive thoughts can impact both your mood and functioning. When they enter our mind, generally our first instinct is some level of discomfort, followed by attempts to banish the unwanted visions. This is human nature: When something is bad, we avoid it. The stove is hot, so we don’t touch it. Simple. But obsessive thinking is a different beast.
When we try to avoid a thought while in an obsessive state, the brain keeps reminding us about the unwanted thought so we don’t forget to stop thinking about it. It’s the same basic principle behind being told not to think about something — say a pink elephant — and our next thought becoming exactly what we are not supposed to think about.
The secret is that like all thoughts, what we’re ruminating over has no meaning by itself. As Deepak Chopra says, “Thoughts are just fleeting mental images. They have no consequences until you choose to make them important.”
Recognize the Pattern and Name Them
To stop obsessive thinking in its tracks, it’s important to identify these thoughts in the first place. Seems simple, but it’s a little trickier than it sounds.
“We have to recognize our patterns before we can change them,” says Virgo. “Often when we are stuck in a cognitive loop, we engage in a well-established habit. It’s similar to biting nails or checking social media every few minutes — it happens unconsciously. The next time you catch yourself ruminating, think: ‘Stop!’”
From here, name the obsessive thoughts. Try writing them down so, as Bruce M. Hyman and Cherry Pedrick write in The OCD Workbook, you can “examine these thoughts understand how they’re triggered and how you’re currently responding to them.”
Once they’re out of your mind, try to identify the underlying cause of the thoughts to gain some perspective. If it’s a worry about not getting a text response from a friend, or a potential mistake made on a test, search for the root issue. Not getting a message back could be, “I’m upset about how my friend treated me the last time we met.” Anxiety about a test might be, “I’m afraid of failing this class.”
Accept that Thoughts are Largely Out of Your Control
The next step to stop obsessive thinking is acceptance. Remember that thoughts are just thoughts — a series of neurons firing in the brain, nothing more. As we learn to accept obsessive thoughts, we’ll have a much better chance of stopping them altogether.
“The resulting effort to avoid, suppress, or escape these thoughts unwittingly serves to amplify and strengthen them, making them worse and worse,” advise Hyman and Cherry. “Acceptance, rather than control and avoidance, is the key. By ‘acceptance,’ we don’t mean giving up or resigning,” but rather as their client said, “When I let the thoughts be, they let me be.”
To accept obsessive thoughts, plant yourself firmly in the present and be realistic about what you do and do not have control over.
“When you find yourself obsessing about the past or worrying about the future, ask yourself the following question: ‘Can I do anything about this right now?’” says Jodee Virgo. “If the answer is yes, identify what you can do and do it.…If the answer is no, do your best to accept what is.”
Explore Meditation and Mindfulness Benefits
Partly why obsessive thinking feels so uncomfortable is due to the icky emotions that accompany intrusive thoughts. While you work to cognitively challenge ruminations by naming and accepting them, using meditation and mindfulness exercises can help quell the resulting negative emotional responses.
In Psychology Today, Psychologist Seth Meyers defines mindfulness as “clearing your head and focusing on how your mind and body feels in the moment.” To achieve this, mindfulness and meditation offer a series of practices to reorient us to the present moment, place, and time, which soothes anxiety.
When obsessive thinking enters the scene, try deep breathing exercises by breathing in slowly to the count of four, hold the breath for a count of four, and then exhale for another count of four. Grounding exercises can also help break the rumination cycle. Anchor yourself in the present by focusing on the feeling of your feet planted on the ground. Take in your surroundings with all your senses, identifying in turn five things you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel to get into “right now.”
A quick internet search can identify other mindfulness and meditation activities to try. Also consider attending in-person meditation classes to learn different techniques in a supportive environment with others.
Reach Out to a Professional if Needed
Obsessive thinking is a normal part of human nature, but it can also be the hallmark of a variety of mental illnesses, particularly obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a range of other anxiety disorders.
If you find yourself struggling with disturbing and persistent obsessive thoughts, or just want a little extra boost to manage obsessive thinking, reach out to a mental health professional.
“If ruminative thoughts are interfering with living the life you want to live, consider reaching out for help,” says Virgo.” Therapy is a great way to learn how to use these techniques with the help and guidance of a professional.”
Our minds are a powerful place, and once we get the hang of stopping obsessive thinking by naming and accepting the thoughts, practicing mindfulness, and getting extra help when needed, we free up space to create something truly amazing for ourselves.
“The greatest power we have is the power to create reality,” says Deepak Chopra. “The essence of wisdom is to see that there is always a solution once you realize that the mind, which seems to create so much suffering, has infinite potential to create fulfillment instead.”
7 Ways to Stop Obsessing
Mason Cooley once wrote: “The cure for an obsession: get another one.”
That’s about as good advice as any that I’ve heard on how to quiet the annoying voices inside your head. They nag, persist, harass, and endure longer than your patience or composure.
I haven’t been very successful at managing mine, as I’m usually processing three obsessions at a time. But a few of my strategies have helped me from time to time. Here they are.
1. Get back on track.
One of the most helpful visualizations for me to employ when I’m obsessing is to imagine that my mind is a car driving along the highway. When I get going on an obsession — can’t let go of a regret, insecurity, or, God forbid, a mix between the two — I simply acknowledge that I am off the road: perhaps on the shoulder of the lane, or going up a ramp, or off to a new adventure altogether. I need to direct the car back to the highway. When I’m in an obsessive state, I do that exercise once, say, every five seconds.
Another visualization technique I use is simply to visualize a stop sign. Not creative, I know, but you don’t need fancy images to get the buggers out of your head. Whenever my thoughts take on a life on their own, I visualize the stop sign. Some OCD experts recommend a ritual that you can do to remind yourself to stop (as you visualize the stop sign), like snapping a rubber band on your wrist — something to indicate that you need to direct your thoughts back to reality. I did this for awhile, but the red marks clued too many people in on what was going on inside my noggin.
3. Keep moving.
Say you’ve employed visualization technique after visualization technique, and your mind keeps going back to that spot — analyzing every angle of the issue. You can’t take it anymore. When I’ve reached my threshold, I get moving… in any way possible.
If I’m at work, I take a bathroom break. If I’m at home, I walk around the block. If I’m in a conversation at a party, I’ll excuse myself and walk to another part of the room. I try my best to change my scenery in any (socially acceptable) way I can, because the shift can sometimes distract me from my thoughts. Sometimes.
4. Get mad.
Some folks say anger isn’t becoming, but new research published in the journal “Emotion” indicates that anger can, at times, contribute to happiness levels and well-being. In the study, participants who chose angry music before a confrontational task showed greater psychological health than the participants who chose happy music. The first group reported greater satisfaction with life, better grades, and a stronger network of friends. It’s okay, then, to yell at your obsession, at your brain, or both. They deserve it.
5. Beware of old baggage.
Much of what we can’t let go — or the fact that we can’t let it go — has roots in past issues. We can’t go back and change it, but the understanding of why we are doing something sometimes offers clues as to how to break obsessive patterns. “So what do we owe our personal histories?” writes psychiatrist Gordon Livingston, M.D., in “Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart.” “Certainly we are shaped by them and must learn from them if we are to avoid the repetitious mistakes that make us feel trapped in a long-running drama of our own authorship.”
6. Identify the distortions.
In their book, The OCD Workbook, Bruce M. Hyman, Ph.D., and Cherry Pedrick, RN, catalog some typical cognitive errors of worriers and persons with OCD. Take note of these:
- Overestimating risk, harm and danger
- Over-control and perfectionism
- Black and white or all-or-nothing thinking
- Persistent doubting
- Magical thinking
- Superstitious thinking
- Intolerance of uncertainty
- Pessimistic bias
- What-if thinking
- Intolerance of anxiety
- Extraordinary cause and effect
7. Apply some humor.
Humor is your best friend. It’s the only voice that confirms that you’re not a freak, that you just are in the midst of one of your regular wigouts, and things will be just fine if you don’t take this thing you are so fixated on so seriously. Humor inserts some much-needed room between your emotional center, your brain’s limbic system, and your issue.
Originally posted on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.
7 Ways to Stop Obsessing
How to Stop Obsessive Thoughts and Anxiety
Persistent and negative thoughts are one of the most common signs of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety makes it nearly impossible to stop focusing on things that you don’t want to think about. These thoughts are rarely positive, often related to your fears or distressing emotions, and in many cases, the existence of the thought causes further anxiety and often leads to more obsessions.
Obsessive thoughts are the hallmark of obsessive compulsive disorder, but there are types of “obsessive” thoughts that are present in a variety of anxiety disorders that won’t necessarily cause a diagnosis of OCD. Below, we’ll look at examples of these obsessive thoughts and how they affect you.
All Types of Anxiety Can Lead to Obsessive Thoughts
The idea of “obsession” is that you cannot focus on anything other than a specific issue (or a few issues), and no matter how hard you try you cannot distract yourself. Many people who don’t have anxiety disorders still experience such thoughts. For example, your first crush back in high school may have led to obsessive thoughts at the time, if their affection was all you could think about.
But when these thoughts are negative or cause you anxiety/stress, then it’s highly likely you have an anxiety disorder.
Obsessions from OCD
Obsessive thoughts are required for someone to be diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder. These obsessive thoughts are often violent, sexual, or fearful in nature. The thought may change depending on the situation (more on that in a moment), but once they’ve entered your mind, you’ll often do anything you can to get rid of them.
Some examples of obsessive thoughts include:
- Fear of getting sick.
- Thinking about hurting a loved one or stranger.
- Focusing on some type of aggressive sexual act (with someone you know or strangers).
- Need for organization or symmetry.
- Worry over little things (did I lock the door, etc.).
Notice that some of these are obviously far more distressing than others. There are those that have unwanted fantasies about murder or rape, while others may simply constantly fear they haven’t turned off the stove. But one thing they all have in common is that they cause significant distress, and once the thought enters a person’s mind, it becomes difficult to shake without some type of action.
That’s what causes compulsions. Compulsions are the action that the person completes in order to reduce this obsessive thought. When the person fears germs (obsession), they may need to wash their hands repeatedly (compulsion). When the person fears the door being unlocked (obsession), they may need to lock it 3 or more times (compulsion) to stop that fear.
Those that are concerned about doing something violent or sexual may try out any habit that causes the intensity of the thoughts to decrease – most often, however, the person performs safe and acceptable routines or rituals – not necessarily the violent or sexual act itself! In OCD, these obsessions are simply unwanted thoughts – they are highly unlikely to be acted upon.
It’s crucial to remember that anxiety genuinely causes these negative thoughts and negative thinking. The way that anxiety alters your brain chemistry makes it very hard to focus on the positives or the future, and so it’s not your fault that you can’t distract yourself from these thoughts or that you’re having them at all.
The More You Try To Stop Them
Numerous scientific studies have shown that trying too hard to “not” think about something may actually cause you to think about it more. That’s because when you focus on avoiding a thought, you’re reminding your brain that the thought exists at all, rather than simply forgetting about it and moving on. It’s a strange way that the brain works, making it very hard for someone that wants to end their obsessive thoughts to actually take control.
This represents a serious problem for those that deal with obsessive thoughts from OCD. If they experience too much shame or fear over these thoughts they’ll try not to have them; and this will cause them to have the thoughts even more, leaving them trapped in a vicious cycle.
Obsessive Thoughts in Other Anxiety Disorders
It’s also possible to develop obsessive thoughts associated with other anxiety disorders. Generally, these will not be quite as severe or overwhelming as the thoughts in OCD, and you’re unlikely to develop compulsions as a result, but there are often some similarities between both disorders. Your psychologist will be the one to diagnose which of the following you have. Some examples of these disorders include:
- Panic Disorder Those with panic disorder and panic attacks may develop hypochondria or health phobias, worried that something is wrong with their health. They may also fear the panic attacks to such a degree that it is all they think about. Panic attacks are intense feelings of severe anxiety with shortness of breath, elevated heartbeat, sweating, and a fear that something is terribly wrong.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – Those with PTSD often find themselves thinking obsessionally and excessively about the trauma they experienced or the belief that the trauma will occur again.
- Phobias Those with very severe phobias may start to think about the object of that fear more and more with everything they do. For example, checking your clothes for spiders and having someone look through your house regularly may represent a phobia obsession.
- Social Phobia Those with social phobia worry excessively about embarrassing themselves in social situations. In some cases, it may be a thought of something that happened, while in others it may be worst-case-scenario thinking about the future.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – GAD is a disorder that’s linked to numerous, general worries. For example, worrying that your son/daughter is in danger after they go off to college, along with worries about finances and relationships, may be a sign of GAD and accompanying obsessive thoughts.
So, while generally an obsessive thought is considered a problem for those with OCD, it is something that can affect those with other types of anxiety disorders as well.
How to Stop Obsessive Thoughts
You need to take a holistic approach to managing your anxiety. Don’t just try to target the obsessive thoughts. Try to target your anxiety as a whole in order to properly address the way it affects you and to find ways of coping with future stresses. Here are some pointers:
Stop Shaming Yourself
First and foremost, you need to learn to accept your thoughts for what they are: a symptom of your anxiety or OCD. You need to stop shaming yourself, and stop feeling like you need to push these thoughts away.
Acceptance is crucial. These thoughts are not in your control, and not something you should expect to control. Learn to accept that they’re a natural part of the disorder and that when you treat your disorder you’ll have fewer of these thoughts.
Yes, it’s something you’ll need to cure, but while they’re occurring, it’s much like being sick with a cold. You don’t get mad at yourself for sneezing, so you shouldn’t try to fight your thoughts or see them as a bad part of your personality while you’re still dealing with your disorder.This is obviously very hard for some people, and sometimes additional support from a therapist is necessary.
Write Out Persistent Thoughts
Sometimes you’ll have a thought that is obsessive and persistent. Try writing those thoughts out in some type of journal or diary. Your mind may focus less on these distressing thoughts when you have an opportunity to process them differently by writing them out.
Get Used to the Anxiety
One of the hardest parts for those living with obsessive thoughts is the idea that they should just live with the anxiety. But learning to be okay with the anxiety is actually an effective strategy.
Part of this will come from acceptance, as mentioned above. But a big part of it is simply learning to let yourself worry.
Compulsions have a tendency to provide too quick a solution to the obsessions, causing you to avoid actually dealing with the anxiety. However, the compulsions actually strengthen the obsessive anxiety, because you’re depriving yourself of the opportunity to survive the anxiety and prove to yourself that this is possible. But if you fight the compulsions as best you can and let yourself be anxious for a while, you’ll often find that the obsessions cause a bit less fear, because you know first-hand that nothing will come of them.
This often needs to be completed in the presence of a therapist who can teach you the tricks necessary to stop trying to solve your obsessive thoughts and simply let them be obsessive.
Cause Your Own Anxiety
Finally, another thing you can try with the approval of your therapist is the idea of causing the anxiety yourself – in other words, purposely think about the thing that causes you that much distress.
The idea behind this is called behavioral habituation. If you stop fighting the thought and start experiencing it as often as possible on purpose, the thought will eventually become less stressful (and possibly even boring).
If it’s something you can do, like get your hands dirty, leave a light on, purposefully mess-up your apartment, etc., then you do it so that you get used to what the anxiety feels like and learn to fear the anxiety less. If it’s something that you simply think to yourself, like distressing thoughts, then try to trigger these thoughts intentionally, until you accept that they have no real meaning and allow yourself to find them less irritating.
It’s often best to do these in the presence of a professional, because this type of technique may not be right for everyone. Nevertheless, it’s been shown that the more you grapply with and accept the anxieties, the easier they may be to handle.
Not All Obsessive Thoughts Are An Anxiety Disorder
One of the reasons that OCD and other anxiety disorders are so misunderstood is because many people claim that they have OCD or obsessive thoughts when they actually do not. You’ll hear numerous celebrities, for example, that say that they have OCD because they like their food presented a certain way, or they dislike getting dirty.
Millions of people have these issues but do not otherwise have a psychological disorder. For your obsessive thoughts or compulsions to be part of an anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder, they need to happen frequently, to such a degree that they drastically impact on a person’s quality of life. If you have the occasional obsessive thought or even a small compulsion or two that otherwise has little to no impact on your wellbeing, chances are you do not have OCD.
But if your obsessions are causing you significant distress, then it’s very likely that you have anxiety and could benefit from some support.
The Overall Solution to Obsessive Thoughts
No matter what you do at home in your spare time, you will still need to address your anxiety directly. Remember, your disorder causes obsessive thoughts, so the only way to truly stop these thoughts is to stop the disorder.
Anxiety is a manageable condition, but it is important to find the right treatment. Some of the better options for obsessive thoughts out there include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – This is easily one of the most effective therapies for obsessive thoughts as it specifically targets problematic thinking and provides actionable strategies to eliminate it.
- Lifestyle Changes – Sleep, exercise, and reducing day to day stressors can all help eliminate anxiety and obsessive thought patterns.
- Medications – Though not preferred by many, there are several very effective medications that can help you cope. At times, medication may be used as an adjunct to psychotherapy.
These are only a few of the many different options available for addressing obsessive thinking and anxiety, and as long as you seek out the one that works best for you, management is possible.
Obsessive Love Disorder
There’s no one single cause of OLD. Instead, it may be linked to other types of mental health disabilities such as:
This group of disorders refers to people who have emotional attachment issues, such as a lack of empathy or an obsession with another person.
Types of attachment disorders include disinhibited social engagement disorder (DSED) and reactive attachment disorder (RAD), and they both develop during childhood from negative experiences with parents or other adult caregivers.
In DSED, you might be overly friendly and not take precautions around strangers. With RAD, you may feel stressed and have problems getting along with others.
Borderline personality disorder
This mental health disorder is characterized by a disturbance with self-image coupled with severe mood swings. Borderline personality disorder can cause you to be extremely angry to extremely happy within a matter of minutes or hours.
Anxious and depressive episodes also occur. When considering obsessive love disorder, personality disorders can cause switches between extreme love for a person to extreme disdain.
Based on delusions (events or facts you believe to be true), this disorder is exhibited by an insistence on things that are already proven false. When it comes to obsessive love, delusional jealousy can cause you to believe the other person has reciprocated their feelings for you, even if they’ve made it clear this is indeed not true.
According to a 2005 study, delusional jealousy may be linked to alcoholism in men.
This disorder is an intersection between delusional and obsessive love disorders. With erotomania, you believe that someone famous or of a higher social status is in love with you. This can lead to harassment of the other person, such as showing up at their home or workplace.
According to Comprehensive Psychiatry, people with erotomania are often isolated with few friends, and they may even be unemployed.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a combination of obsessive thoughts and compulsive rituals. These are severe enough to interfere with your everyday life. OCD can also cause you to need constant reassurance, which can affect your relationships.
Some people are said to have relationship OCD, where obsessions and compulsions are centered around the relationship. However, this isn’t an officially recognized subtype of OCD.
Unlike delusional jealousy, obsessional jealousy is a nondelusional preoccupation with a partner’s perceived infidelity. This preoccupation can lead to repetitive and compulsive behaviors in response to infidelity concerns. These behaviors resemble OCD more so than delusional jealousy. This can cause significant distress or impair everyday functioning.
You know the feeling…. you and your ex-lover just broke up 2 weeks ago, after a roller-coaster of a relationship where you were constantly abused and lied to. But you just can’t seem to shake the breakup blues. You don’t want to leave the house, your friends are tired of listening to you talk about your ex, and all you do is cry and lay in bed. While everyone tells you that it was for the best – and a part of you believes it was for the best, you just can’t stop thinking about your ex. You think about everything including the good and the troubled times. Thinking about your ex-lover, turns into an obsession, almost like a drug you begin wondering about what they are doing, who they are with, and if they are as hurt about the break-up as you are. Perhaps you check their social media accounts, maybe you drive by their house hoping to see them and who they are with, you call their phone from a blocked number to see if they will answer or just to hear their voicemail; you sniff their old clothes that they left behind to smell their scent, or maybe you camp out at a spot where you are hoping they will come by and see you. When you do find out what your ex has been up to, you are shocked because they have moved on, and are in love again. Your partner looks very happy with their new beau, and doesn’t appear to even be thinking about you or your recent breakup. You can’t seem to stop thinking about them, and now you don’t know how to move with your life, despite how terrible the relationship was. And now your obsession kicks into overdrive. Here are some tips to help you move stop obsessing about your ex and the relationship which brought you a lot of pain.
1) Don’t be impulsive, or engage in behaviors that you will regret. Sometimes when we are hurting, we want to do anything to alleviate that pain or try to hurt the person who made us feel that way. This would include things like begging our ex to come back, doing drugs, sleeping with other people (especially people that your ex knows), destructing our ex-lover’s property, and blasting our ex on social media. Keep in mind that after a breakup, you are experiencing an emotional turmoil – thus you may not be thinking clearly. All you know is that you are hurting, angry, and you want those feelings to stop; or you want to hurt your ex as much as they hurt you. Keep in mind, engaging in behaviors like this isn’t going to stop the pain, or change what happened. You are more likely to feel upset about engaging in something that may cost you in the end. It may also be more beneficial to “disconnect” from social media for a period, so that you can work on your healing without spying on your ex, discussing all the details of the break-up, or trying to openly shame your ex.
2) Allow yourself time to heal. If you were truly invested in your relationship, that means you put a great deal of effort and emotion into it. Thus, you can’t “just get over someone and move on” without feeling hurt. Understand that above all else, you are a human being, and you are entitled to feel and express your pain. Everyone is different in how they express their pain and the length of time needed to recover; there is no one size fits all. You have the right to feel upset, angry, sad, and pissed off. Those are all natural feelings. Allow yourself the time and the space to go through these feelings in a safe space.
3) Focus on yourself and your healing. This is done by doing things that help you feel better, and assist you in your healing process. Reading self-help books, and journaling can be very therapeutic and informative. It allows you to try and gain understanding. Other things that you can do to focus on healing are doing things which may help you to feel better even if it’s only temporary. Examples of this include: watching your favorite movie, going for a walk, or going out with a friend to a nice dinner. While you may need to be proactive and “force yourself” to do this initially, over time it will become easier.
4) Allow yourself a specific amount of time to grieve and think about the loss of the relationship. I want to preface this with the statement, this works exercise works better for some than for others. How it works: allow yourself a specific amount of time to think about or grieve your ex and your previous relationship each day, with the notion that you will gradually decrease this allotted time weekly. For example, during the first week of the breakup, allow yourself 2 uninterrupted hours a day (you can adjust the amount of time) to cry, be angry, and to sit with those uncomfortable emotions. The following week decrease the amount of time to 1 hour and 45 min a day and so on. The idea is that you allot yourself time to grieve and process the loss, but you don’t allow it to consume you.
5) Make room for support. You may have the urge to isolate yourself from friends and family, or dwell on the relationship or your ex. When most people have experienced a break-up (even in a toxic relationship) they experience a range of emotions such as anger and depression, they want to isolate and withdraw, thus sinking deeper into a negative state of feelings. The better solution is to do the exact opposite by reconnecting with others and rekindling other positive uplifting relationships. However, I would implement a boundary here as well – allot yourself a specific amount of time to talk about things that happened in your relationship; or ask your friends and loved ones to cue you if you continue to dwell on the topic of your former partner/relationship. You want your friends and family to be a positive support system and a distraction; not help you continue to focus on the negatives.
6) Seek out therapy for support and feedback. Finding a therapist can be a great start to helping you understand your pain, being supportive and objective, and identifying concerns. Further, a therapist will provide education and insight about you, your situation, and provide additional coping skills.
7) Medication. If you are not able to eat, sleep, work, talk to anyone, go to school, care for your children, your family and friends grow extremely concerned about your emotional state, and you constantly continue to obsess over your ex in an unhealthy manner, and a substantial amount of time has passed (2-3 months or more) – you may want to explore medication options with your primary care physician or a psychiatrist. Medication, combined with counseling can help to provide additional support during your critical adjustment period.
Breakups from relationships can be difficult, even if the relationship with abusive, unhealthy, or didn’t meet your emotional needs. If you broke up with someone who was particularly manipulative, you can easily get sucked back in and be consumed by the relationship in an even more destructive way – which is the reaction that they were hoping for. Working on healing yourself, learning from your experience, and continuing to move forward in spite your experience will prove to be far more beneficial.
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© Natalie Jones, LPCC, PsyD. | Clinical Psychologist