Interrupting the Circular Thinking of Obsessive Thoughts

Getting in a thought cycle of rumination, worry, obsession, or repetitive, looping thoughts all cause a person extreme frustration. It can take up all of your energy and mental capacity, making it feel impossible to think about anything else. These looping thoughts feel charged with emotion, causing you more distress the more energy you give them. When you find yourself in the middle of this circular thinking, you need to do something to disrupt the pattern and change the course of your thoughts outside of this hard-to-control thought loop. 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive thoughts are common to those suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD has two main parts—obsessions and compulsions. This disorder is characterized by experiencing recurring, distressing thoughts or sensations followed by intense urges to perform a repetitive behavior to achieve temporary relief from the anxiety of these distressing thoughts. 

Putting a Pause on Obsessive Thinking

You don’t need OCD to experience obsessive thinking that you don’t feel like you can control. Anyone who struggles with circular thinking knows that just trying not to think the thought doesn’t work. Luckily, once you step outside of the storyline that these thoughts are using to scare you, you will find your power to control what feels uncontrollable

  • Recognize and name your patterns of thinking. Having awareness is the first step to changing behavior. Identifying and name what your looping thoughts are will allow you to begin the process of getting to the root belief and understanding the true cause of your worry.
  • Exposure therapy. Best done guided by a professional, exposure therapy involves facing a fearful thought that you worry about to learn that its effects are tolerable or very unlikely to happen.
  • Don’t fight your thoughts. Fighting your thoughts doesn’t help, so give them acceptance. Try not to get mad at yourself when an intrusive thought pops up, and just treat it like any other thought, detaching emotion from it and gently redirecting your thoughts to something else.

Being stuck in repetitive, worrisome thought loops feels frustrating and monopolizes all your energy and attention. These circular thinking patterns are rooted in irrational beliefs fueled by anxiety and fear. Growing awareness and understanding of these thoughts will help you not be afraid of them, which stops them from having control over you. Don’t be afraid to seek help if you are having a hard time managing obsessive thoughts. Avalon Malibu is one of the only residential treatment centers in California treating both mental health disorders and substance use addiction. We provide the best evidence-based mental health therapies and well-rounded support, so our clients can find lasting success in recovery. For more information, call (844) 857-5992.

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