7 Coping Strategies for Overcoming Obsessive Thoughts

Are you dealing with obsessive thoughts?

Are you dealing with obsessive thoughts?

According to experts, obsessions are normal thoughts experienced with increased frequency. Struggling with obsessive thoughts does not mean your lack moral character or that you are crazy.  Anxiety stimulates obsessions: we obsess because we hope to solve our problems by thinking about the same thing over and over.  However, obsessive thinking does not help problem solving.  In fact, the opposite occurs: we become stuck in our thinking and feeling, which makes it difficult to move forward.

When we recognize that anxiety is the root cause of obsessions, we can understand that real healing from obsessions comes through reducing anxiety. Here are some helpful tips.

1. Make a list

Make a list of all your obsessive thoughts. Then write down what type of things trigger each, and what you do after.

2. The 3 Second Rule

Allow yourself 3 seconds to think about the obsessive item, and then purposefully redirect your attention to something more positive: a feeling, a happy memory, a pleasant vacation, or a kind word.

3. Learn how to Relax

Say the word “relax” softly in your head and take a deep breath. Tell yourself “You’re going to be okay.” Do a relaxation exercise (positive visualization, deep breathing, yoga pose.)

4. Learn to Live in the Present

Redirect your attention from thoughts to actual experience. What is real today? What do you need to accomplish, what are your daily tasks (e.g., work, taking care of your child, cleaning, chores etc.)

5. Use Distractions

Many people reported that distracting themselves with other activities helped them to stop obsessing.

Read a novel, watch movie, play a video game on your computer or phone, go for a walk, work out at a gym.

6. Thought Stopping

When you notice yourself obsessing, tell yourself “STOP” in your head and then move on to another activity. This is different than trying not to think about an obsession – which only makes the obsession stronger. Rather it is interrupting the obsessive process. We cannot keep ourselves from having obsessive thoughts, but we can refuse to “dwell” on them; we can immediately try and think about other more positive things

7. Practice Mindfulness

Imagine you are on a moving train, looking out of the window and watching your thoughts passing by, as if it was scenery, without judgment.  Just let these thoughts pass you by with you observing, as if these thoughts are not yours.

You observe, but are not involved. The scenery you are watching on the train glide in and out of view and you remain detached and relaxed.

This is a meditation technique that encourages detachment from the contents of your mind. ‘Watching’ obsessive thoughts in your mind from a relaxed ‘distance’ is very different from being in the middle of those thoughts and feeling totally identified with them.  The more detached you become from the thoughts, the less you try to fight them.

If you would like some more help with overcoming obsessive thoughts, anxiety or depression, please call me, Dr. Maya, on (818) 809-9519 for a free 10-minute phone consultation.

photo credit: cellar_door_films




  1. Thanks for these great tips Dr. Maya. Personally, I find mindfulness extremely helpful as a daily practice to manage my own stress levels. And I agree that living in the present moment can certainly reduce stress!

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