How many times have you let yourself fall into a fit of worry after something relatively minor happens? Whether a friend hasn’t texted you back, or you performed poorly today at work, pessimistic thoughts can often jump to extremes: if something can go wrong, it will. For those with substance use disorder, obsessions are a huge part of our problem. During addiction, we obsess about the next fix, and how we will get it. Even once drinking and drugging have been removed from our lives, obsessive thought patterns can continue. These obsessions might be more lowkey, causing you a mild nuisance, not distress. But others can be quite scary, including thoughts of hurting yourself or a loved one. If left unmanaged, obsessive thought patterns can affect our mood and even our functioning. Here are a few suggestions to interrupt obsessive thinking.
Keep Obsessive Thinking in Perspective
While obsessive thoughts are most often negative, and tend to be upsetting, reminding yourself of what they are — only thoughts — can keep things in perspective. If your perseveration is the downward spiral type, remember that these thoughts are projections, or speculations, not reality or actual threats.
Try to Meditate
For people with anxiety, having to sit still and meditate can feel like a tall order. But remember that meditation is a practice and gets easier with time. Start slow. Sit still and focus on your breathing for five minutes, then try 10, then more if you’re up for it. If five minutes is too long to begin with, you’d be surprised how much sitting still for one minute can slow down your thoughts.
Weigh Possibility vs. Probability
When thoughts recur and continue to get more and more negative, they also tend to get more and more unlikely. For example, if you made a mistake at work today, and your boss wants to talk about it later in the week, thought patterns can go from reasonable — “Maybe they’ll give me some tips on how to improve” — to distressed — “I am going to get fired, and my boss will never give me a good recommendation.” Is it possible you’ll be fired? Yes. But is it probable? Probably not as much as you’d think.
Schedule a Time to Worry
Some find it helpful to limit their obsessive thoughts by allowing for a few moments each day to actively think about them. By taking short worry breaks, it might be easier to let the thoughts not take up as much room in your head and be less debilitating.
Visualize the Thought in a Less Threatening Way
Sometimes when you think about the obsessive thought, you’ll realize just how improbable it is. Allowing yourself to view it with a sense of humor and laugh at the situation is a healthy way to keep your concern right sized.
Get Your Heart Pumping
Suggesting to someone who is anxious that they should exercise is old news at this point. But there is a reason it is so often suggested. Strenuous workouts not only allow the body to release natural endorphins but require more acute concentration which is helpful to provide your mind a prolonged distraction to your obsessive thoughts.
There is Help
At the end of the day, seeking professional help to recover from addiction or mental health issues might be the most productive option. There is no shame in seeking help, and you are not alone. Substance use disorder is a based on a compulsion to use drugs or drink alcohol, and the clinicians and behavioral health technicians at the Atlanta Center for Mental Health are committed to helping you develop healthy thought patterns and coping skills. To learn more about our facilities, and which level of care is the right fit for you, call an admissions specialist at 833-754-9301.