How to get rid of obsessive thoughts in your head: 5 steps to freedom

Obsessive thoughts come in series, are often repeated, are accompanied by negative judgments and are very difficult to control. They have a negative impact on life; they spoil your mood, cause irritation, anxiety, and make it difficult to switch to other activities.

Obsessive thoughts come late at night, and then you toss and turn in bed for hours, trying to distract yourself and finally fall asleep. They torment you throughout the day, like annoying insects - “I’m not good enough”, “did I lock the front door”, “my head hurts again, I probably have a serious illness”, “this life is unbearable, I can’t cope”, “I have to I should have answered him completely differently.”

As soon as an obsessive thought begins to attack us, we experience discomfort. Emotions instantly let us know that something is not going as we would like. Our nature dictates to us - try to avoid discomfort, eliminate what causes discomfort. Unfortunately, in the case of obsessive thoughts, this simple mechanism does not work.

The more we think, the less we do

Excessive thought processes give rise to many possible scenarios for the development of events, and in the end it becomes simply impossible to make a decision. We become overwhelmed by too many ideas—this is called analysis paralysis. We think about potential consequences that may never actually happen, worry about what the outcome of a situation will be, and it becomes so paralyzing that we end up doing nothing. It turns out that if we don't try, don't make mistakes, worry about what might not happen, we actually fail too. At the same time, a person begins to suffer from many conflicting thoughts in his head and cannot come to a common opinion or organize this chaos. We stop listening to our intuition because other thoughts completely fill our head.

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Ways to fight

#1 Allow thoughts to be

About 30 years ago, psychology professor Daniel Wegner conducted an interesting experiment. He divided student volunteers into 2 groups and asked one of them not to think about the polar bear. Every time an image appeared in the subjects' minds, they had to press the bell button. The results of the experiment revealed that the bear appeared in the minds of the students several times a minute.

Based on experience, the professor concluded that the brain is incapable of controlling the thought process. He proved that the ban only causes an obsession in a person and, in fact, simply confirmed that the forbidden fruit is sweet .

You can read more about the experiment on Wikipedia.

By transferring the results of his experiment to our situation, we can understand why thoughts do not disappear so easily. In a constant effort to get rid of them, we only remind the brain of their existence, again causing a wave of feelings.

Therefore, in a moment of anxiety, you do not need to stop and drown out your thoughts . No matter how scary it may be, you must try to observe them and accept your condition. Over time, you will readjust and the mental images will not cause as much fear as they did before.

A thought is just an impulse; emotions do all the “dirty” work. And if you replace the emotion of excitement with the emotion of calm, then you can deceive your consciousness.

In general, the highest level of deception is to love your illness according to Sinelnikov’s book of the same name. For the body it will be simply an explosion. At first it is incomprehensible and illogical to him, but then you feel better. Of course, there will be no love, but anxiety will gradually go away and emptiness will be established in the soul. “Love” will, as it were, suppress emotions and temporarily create a neutral atmosphere.

#2 This is not from you

[adsense1] If you are reading this article, then a part of your consciousness understands that some, excuse me, bullshit is happening. Something just and overpowers your consciousness. But this shouldn’t be, these thoughts are disgusting and you have no right to have such power.

Therefore, obsessive thoughts are like an external enemy. Depths of the subconscious, energy waves, “demons”, etc. Let them fly, let them exist. The main thing to know is that this is not your inner essence.

Such an idea will help you treat yourself more loyally, and again calm your emotions. You seem to throw off responsibility from yourself and begin to fight not with yourself, but with an external enemy.

#3 Diary

If you don't have enough money for a psychologist, you can keep a diary. Not even to lead, but simply to pour out your condition at once. They are not afraid all their feelings, experiences, and most terrible forecasts on paper.

It’s like you’re communicating with a friend, you’re not afraid to look fear in the face. You do not hide from disturbing thoughts, do not hide your experiences from yourself

With these small actions you show your consciousness that you have not given up and are still ready to fight. You prove to yourself that you are not driven into a corner and can analyze the situation with a sober mind.

To completely relieve your soul, you can mock this leaf: tear it, burn it, soak it in water, etc. Everything here is limited only by imagination.

#4 Release your emotions

Seclude yourself, lie down, completely immerse yourself in despondency . Allow yourself to feel sorry for yourself, to feel the injustice of your situation. Instead of constantly holding back and feeling resentment, it is better to get rid of it immediately.

Cry once, but with complete dedication, hit a punching bag, scream into a pillow. Don’t be shy to express your emotions, because as we have already found out, they are to blame for everything.

#5 Obsession

[adsense1] You can try to hide from your thoughts by working, meeting with friends, or constantly fussing around the house. But this is only temporary relief, then the thoughts will come flooding back with renewed vigor.

It’s better to find an idea, an obsession, a hobby for yourself and at the same time use other methods. When you can remove bad thoughts for good, you will have something to do and keep your head busy.

Otherwise, there will be nothing to do, the head will be empty and the brain will again fill it with mental “nonsense”. The result will be a vicious circle: you will cleanse yourself, but your thoughts will return to what is pure.

To find your hobby, you can try:

  • Do what you are interested in (If you like reading books, try writing, if you like fishing gear, try making them at home, etc.)
  • Remember your childhood, some hobbies
  • Ask yourself questions like “what would I do if I had $1,000,000?”
  • Do popular things (language learning, sports, drawing)
  • Look at the hobbies of people you admire

Don't be shy about your new hobbies. Firstly, we only live once, and secondly, this will help us cope with the current situation faster.

#6 Physical condition

When you are depressed and depressed, you should not forget about the needs of the body. You should also get enough sleep, eat right, and exercise.

This will not help directly, but it will significantly improve the condition of the body. And there is a direct relationship between the state of the body and the state of the soul.

#7 It's not that bad

The issue of obsessive thoughts has been around for some time now, and psychologists have entire collections of heavy books on this topic. They study them, go to all sorts of seminars, attend master classes.

This is because a huge number of people these days are susceptible to this condition. You can find them on forums, in different groups, chats. You are not alone, and you have support.

Don’t worry, at most , and everything will definitely change for you. The brain simply physically cannot hold one thought for more than this time. He will get tired of fear, monotony and depression. He will send it with the words “come what may.”

For example, for me this condition took about two months and for 2 years now I have been in excellent health with freedom from “mental diarrhea.” And now, I want to share the method that probably helped me the most.

We become less creative

British scientists have proven that people are much more creative when certain parts of the brain and cognitive processes are in a state of calm. Overthinking confuses ideas and decisions, so a person may feel stuck in their own thoughts. Yes, it's possible that overthinking can lead to new, fresh ideas, but more often than not it goes in the opposite direction. Mental barricades are created in the human brain, which complicate thought processes. Stanford also conducted a study and came to the same conclusion. A group of volunteers were tasked with making several drawings while their thought processes were analyzed by magnetic resonance imaging devices. The more difficult the tasks, the more the subjects had to think and their drawings were less creative. On the other hand, the simpler the drawings, the less thought required to implement them, the more creative they are. Simply put, when we think too much, creativity is limited.

Brain work and rest mode

Everyone knows the division of people into owls and larks. It has a good reason. Brain activity changes throughout the day:

  • 6-7 hours is the best time to learn something new;
  • 8-9 – logical thinking comes into play;
  • 11-12 – break for rest and lunch (food for the brain – pleasant music or books);
  • 13-18 – the brain is ready to solve complex problems that require high concentration;
  • 18-21 – energy, as well as brain activity, decreases;
  • 21-23 – it is better to leave the remaining work for the morning.

Each person is individual, so the time of onset of a particular period may shift. However, they come in that order.

We use too much energy

Overthinking takes a lot of energy. The brain spends all its energy thinking through different scenarios and working through all the thoughts that come to mind. It turns out that in the end there is not enough energy for something truly productive. You may feel incredibly tired simply because you spend too much time in your own thoughts. Scientists have concluded that when we think too much, we find ourselves in a stressful situation, then the body begins to produce cortisol, the stress hormone. And the more often we encounter this, the faster we come to emotional burnout and decreased productivity.

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Why technology itself doesn't interfere with concentration

We tend to blame them for attention problems. The notifications that constantly pile up on our smartphones and the fear of missing out on something important that they cause is what we usually attribute our difficulty concentrating to. But this is only the external side of the issue, and the root of the problem is deeper.

I realized this when I was trying to overcome my phone addiction. To begin with, I began to notice when I reach out to him without any reason. It turns out there is always a reason. Usually this is some kind of emotional discomfort from which you want to escape: boredom, awkwardness, anxiety.

In other words, phone use, and with it excessive consumption of media content and social networks, was a reaction to unpleasant experiences, and not a cause of distraction.

We don't sleep well

It has been scientifically proven that the vast majority of overthinkers have trouble sleeping. Precisely because, instead of lying in bed and smoothly falling into sleep, they think and think and think. Before going to the kingdom of Morpheus, our body must enter a state of rest. The pulse should slow down, the blood pressure should drop, and breathing should return to normal. But when we think and analyze all night, it only leads to feelings of excitement and anxiety. It is virtually impossible to fall asleep in this state. And if we don't get enough sleep too often, it leads to exhaustion, both moral and physical.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Often, obsessive thoughts cause the need to perform certain actions - rituals. This is how obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is formed. Obsessions here are obsessive thoughts, and compulsions are actions. The mechanism of the disorder is that by performing certain rituals, a person temporarily reduces emotional stress and is distracted from obsessive thoughts. These could be the following actions:

  • constant double-checking whether the locks, taps are closed, whether electrical appliances are turned off;
  • checking pulse or blood pressure if you are worried about your health;
  • washing hands too often for fear of infection;
  • maintaining ideal order and symmetry in the arrangement of objects on the table;
  • counting the number of windows in houses, and much more.

By doing something like this, we can actually experience some relief. By performing such rituals over and over again, you can really take your mind off the disturbing obsessive thoughts. But it is necessary to understand that the effect of this action is only temporary. And in the long term, it only increases anxiety, keeping us in this state.

Our appetite changes

Apart from sleep, when we think too much, it also affects our appetite. But here it is also difficult to trace the same influence. Some people start eating less, others more. The second option occurs too often. Many people do this just because it calms them down and distracts them. In addition, cortisol, a stress hormone, increases appetite. This process is difficult to control, but it’s definitely worth a try.

What really keeps us from concentrating?

People have always had problems with concentration. This is what Nir Eyal writes in his book “Indistractable”: “Previous generations were helped not to be distracted by social pressure - before the invention of the personal computer, procrastination at the desktop was noticeable to everyone around. Reading a magazine or talking about your weekend on the phone made it clear to your colleagues that you were slacking off from work.”

Today, everything is far from so obvious, and if you work from home, the social factor disappears altogether. And in general, circumstances have changed:

  • More than ever, more people are engaged in intellectual work; long concentration is very important for them.
  • Intellectual work usually requires that a person needs to process a huge amount of information.
  • Distractions—our electronic devices—are always at hand. Moreover, we are given a false sense of productivity, for example when we read articles on the Internet and call it “collecting materials.”
  • Making distractions invisible to others reduces social responsibility.

All these circumstances make concentration problems more noticeable, but do not cause them. Having read many books about attention and observed myself, I can conclude that the reasons lie in our psychology.

Lack of purpose

Productivity often turns from a means to achieve results into a fetish. We try to be productive and focused for the sake of being productive. But with this approach, the brain does not understand why it should concentrate and make efforts at all. Naturally, good results cannot be achieved this way.

Striving for novelty

The ability to concentrate on one thing for a long time was disadvantageous for evolution. Much more important was the ability to quickly redirect attention in response to unexpected danger. As a result, our brains are still constantly seeking novelty. This behavior is reinforced by the release of dopamine when we switch to a new task, browser tab, or TV program.

Moreover, in search of new incentives, a person is ready to go very far. In one study, Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind, participants were asked to sit in a room and just think for 15 minutes. There was only a device in the room with which you can give yourself a mild but painful electric shock. Before the experiment, all participants said that they were willing to pay to avoid this. But when left alone in a room with boredom, 67% of men and 25% of women used the device, some even more than once.

Attention overload

The ability to concentrate is not unlimited. When we cross boundaries and overload our attention, we lose the ability to focus. This happens when we try to do too many things at once or focus on something difficult for too long.

As Chris Bailey writes, the more often we fill our attention to the brim, the more time we spend switching between tasks, the less we are able to filter out unnecessary information on the fly, and the more difficult it is for us to suppress the urge to jump from one task to another.

Emotional discomfort

For me this is the biggest problem. While I was weaning myself off my phone, I noticed that countless emotions and sensations arise throughout the day. They encourage me to shift my attention from what I am doing to something else.

Like the desire for novelty, this is related to our evolutionary development. As scientists write Bad is Stronger than Good, if satisfaction and pleasure were constant, we would lose the incentive to continue to seek new benefits and advantages. In other words, these feelings were not useful to our species, which is why today we constantly experience anxiety.

For the last three years I have been trying to solve these problems. I clenched my teeth and tried not to get distracted. It worked, but only to a certain extent: I was unable to bypass the brain structure. Everything began to change when I accepted the reasons for my difficulty concentrating. I stopped fighting them and began to learn to use them to my advantage. To do this, we need to understand how our attention works.

How to control yourself?

The first thing to do is catch yourself thinking too much and understand when this happens. How do we know if we are thinking too much? Scientists offer one simple way. If you think about a situation and come up with the thought “what if...” at least three times, then you are really overthinking.

Once you have caught yourself having these thoughts, you need to find a way to distract your mind and focus on physical activity. This frees up the cognitive system. Running or yoga are great. Another effective way is a diary. 20 minutes before bed, make a list of everything that worries you and what you need to do about it. This way you can free your mind. And it is important not to type, but to write by hand in order to relax and calm down. Talking to a friend or therapist can be helpful. The final option is meditation to help restore and clear your mind. But here you can’t go without patience.

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Emotional reaction

Thoughts themselves are just fleeting, changing pictures, products of our minds that have little meaning until we ourselves decide to give them importance. They are not dangerous, do not entail any special consequences, and do not have any physical impact on our lives. So why is it so difficult to resist some of them, where does such strength come from?

It seems that those thoughts to which we ourselves “give” an emotional assessment acquire special weight. As soon as one of the images, for some reason, triggers an emotional reaction in us, especially a negative one, we rush with all the power of our thinking apparatus to solve the problem of avoiding or alleviating suffering.

How to get rid of obsessive thinking, if even our brain in this case works against us?


To be afraid of something is almost a rule of the VSD. It often happens that, having gotten rid of one fear, the patient immediately “gets” another as a pet. As soon as you pay special attention to some thought, confidence immediately appears: it will be so. If a picture of one’s own death in a fragrant bath is clearly visible in one’s head (for example, thanks to a favorite movie), the patient can become fixated on this thought and literally live with it 24 hours a day.

Realizing all the delusion of his ideas, a person is still convinced: this is theoretically possible, which means it will be so. Sometimes the patient begins to feel almost like Vanga. He calls all his thoughts with the confident word “premonition,” and this closes the circle of phobia even stronger.

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