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Compulsive Disorders: How to Manage Constant Obsessive Thoughts

Updated on January 23, 2018
donotfear profile image

Annette Sharp holds a BAAS in Behavioral Science from Texas A&M. She is a counselor and motivator with an empathetic heart.


Managing Obsessive Thoughts

Having obsessive thoughts has its ups and downs.

On the plus side, we can always get the details down to the nitty gritty. No problemo’!

We’ll give you every little detail from each crack and crevice in the darkest recesses of the issue.

On the negative side, we sometimes continually dwell on the most insignificant mundane aspects of the problem.

The result isn’t always an equally balanced scale of grapes.


The Challenge of Obsessive Thoughts

Being a deep thinker myself, and forever obsessing about the “little things”, I’ve found the struggle to be quite demanding. The thoughts can seemingly go on forever in our spinning wheel of imagination. It’s not that we WANT to continue dwelling on it, it’s just that we feel it with much more INTENSITY than the average Joe or Jane. The normal guy says, “this cast iron skillet is warm”. We see and feel it as “this darn skillet is red hot….!”

What are obsessive thoughts? According to the DSM-IV manual of mental disorders, obsessive thoughts fall under the category of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I’m focusing (obsessively) on the “Obsessive Thoughts” category. Here’s the description from DSM-IV:

Obsessions as defined by (1), (2), (3), and (4):

(1) recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and inappropriate and that cause marked anxiety or distress

(2) the thoughts, impulses, or images are not simply excessive worries about real-life problems

(3) the person attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, impulses, or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action

(4) the person recognizes that the obsessional thoughts, impulses, or images are a product of his or her own mind (not imposed from without as in thought insertion).

How Obsessive Thoughts Work

Gee, that’s deep, isn’t it? Here’s how I describe it in normal, everyday language: These obsessive thoughts can take the form of many things: an action, thought, feeling, emotion or a person. The little or BIG thought of something or someone is apparent. It continues to grow, metamorphosis, and evolve into a constant entity in our mind. Then it begins to stay longer and longer, creating a sense of normality in our brain. After an undetermined amount of time, we begin to associate the thought as “average and normal”. When the logical part of our weary brain wishes to let go of it and move on, the obsessive spark grabs hold of the thought, image, or person and clings tightly because it feels “normal”.

Nothing is immune from the “obsession spark”. It clings to hurtful events, sadness, depression, anger, fear, and people (or a person). It even attaches itself to situations we don’t want to think about!

The Negative Side of Obsessive Thoughts

Obsessive thoughts are intriguing. It can usually (but not always) focus on an event, person or action that was hurtful; almost like wanting to unwillingly torture yourself. When the event or action takes place, you may deal with it in the healthy way of an average person: grieve, get angry, sad or happy, and move on for a short period of time. What happens after that is amazing.

“It”, being the event, action or ‘person thought’, always makes a U-turn like a boomerang and heads right back at you and hits you in the face, sometimes with the full power of a tornado. Then the cycle starts again as the pangs of the “thing” knock you down and attack your emotions, making you sad, emotional, or anxious. At this point, the fight starts all over again to rid yourself of the pain, thought, feeling, emotion or image. This is only the negative side of it.

Obsessive Thoughts Aren't Always Negative

The positive side of obsessive thoughts can be helpful. Obsessive thoughts are definitely thorough! We don’t miss a thing. On the down side, this sometimes backfires because we may miss the OBVIOUS because we’re so wrapped up in the insignificant detail. It's all about learning to manage the obsessive thoughts.

The roll of medication in treating obsessive thoughts.

Again, I'm speaking from personal experience and I'm not pulling the information from a difficult manual. But if it wasn't for the roll of medication in the treatment of OCD, many people could be a lot worse off. Fortunately, there is a drug called Luvox (Fluvoxamine). The action of the drug seems to block the thought from giving one that "kicked in the ass" feeling in the chest, thus preventing a "complete obsession" that could last for hours. During these "complete obsession attacks", one may continually, with no ability to stop, focus on the image of what is in your mind, as if it's mocking you. After taking the medication, when the thought "hits", the result will be only a fleeting image of the inflated feeling.

Recovery & Self Help for Obsessive Thoughts

There are ups and downs to managing obsessive thoughts, for sure. Since we “deep thinkers” seem to have a tendency toward it, we have to learn to deal with the issue and recognize it for what it is. The hardest part is letting go of intrusive thoughts that are of a hurtful nature. so how do you let go of the thought?

Try focusing on a happy event. Another suggestion is to get involved in fun activities, be around other people or go to a movie. I found that joining a support group helped pull me through. Keep moving! Physical activity works wonders on your brain!

If an individual chooses not to go on medication, then the battle can be more difficult. But with continual acknowledgement, medication, and support, we can all find a way to get beyond the hurdle and run to greener pastures.

Helpful Information

Do You Struggle With Obsessive Thoughts?

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    • laadhy profile image


      8 years ago from Maldives- The Paradise on Earth

      nice hub.

    • Lyn.Stewart profile image


      8 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

      voted up and interesting ... thank you for sharing this info

    • donotfear profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Thomas 

      9 years ago from Northeast Texas

      Thank you for the informative comments.

    • Dr Bill Tollefson profile image

      Bill Tollefson 

      9 years ago from Southwest Florida

      Very good and interesting HUB!!!! In my studies I have discovered that depressive and obsessive thought are a thought addiction. A person actually forms a relationship with the thoughts. To break thoughts is through breaking the relationship.

      Thanks again for this information HUB

    • Goodpal profile image


      9 years ago

      Good Topic. It is a universal problem and faithful companion of intellectuals and sensitive people. In my experience, the tendency to be a perfectionist is a great driver of obsessive thoughts

      Stepping away from thoughts through mindfulness is another way that works for many people like me.

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 

      9 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      This is food for thought. Some excellent points made in this. Obsessive behaviour is such a misunderstood subject, and this explains it well and you wrote it well! Cheers!

    • tfhodge profile image


      10 years ago from California - U.S.A.

      Good information. Thank you!

      T.F. Hodge


    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Maria Giunta 

      10 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      OCD can be debilitating as you mention donotfear, and so can OCPD which is even harder to treat. Thanks for all the good info, looking forward to reading more of your hubs.

    • Hokey profile image


      10 years ago from In the energy.

      Great Hub!! You know what this is? The modern scientific version of Buddhism Buddhism is all about learning to control the mind. Namaste

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Do I appreciate your feedback! What is it about subtle people that's so appealing? For me, maybe the fact that I'm a blurter-outer - a bit impulsive. OK - a lot impulsive. No, I don't think everyone is like this. I think it's the obsessive thinking some of us do. From the comments on this blog it's clear that we're not alone. But maybe there are different kinds of it, or reasons for it. I've been working on figuring out my situation, and the latest idea for me is something called "cognitive anxiety" - a term coined by Dr. Charles Parker (corepsych blog). He's a neurologist specializing in the biology of ADHD, which I have the nonhyperactive variety of. He sees this "mental hyperactivity" all the time, often so severe it can paralyze patients. It strikes home with me so I'm going to look into it some more. (Oh no, more to think about.) If you go to his site, you can search for cognitive anxiety and view a short video he recorded on the subject. Just another take - for what it's worth. Thanks to you and your followers for sharing your experiences.

    • donotfear profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Thomas 

      10 years ago from Northeast Texas

      Thanks Beata! I'm learning a whole new lesson with this hub alone!

    • Beata Stasak profile image

      Beata Stasak 

      10 years ago from Western Australia

      Great informative article how to fight demons - products of our own overactive mind. Sometimes I feel that in our fast food, sleep and rest lifestyle, our mind just has no time to switch off and it wired to repeatedly remind us of our worst nightmares and worries on fast line, just like we live and eat... All the best with your writing. Beata

    • donotfear profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Thomas 

      10 years ago from Northeast Texas

      Gracie: Wow! You hit the nail on the head! What you say about

      "my mind leaps to fill in the gaps of whatever details I don't know or whatever I'm unsure/insecure about. I've noticed I jump to more and stranger conclusions about people who are subtle".

      I do the same thing....does everyone do it to this extent? It's almost like the 'not knowing' the full story or if it is a 'gray area', our mind immediately starts seeking out ways to connect the missing puzzle pieces. I have the hardest dilemna with people who are evasive and avoidant. I want a DIRECT answer, just like you do. Surprisingly, that is exactly the type man I used to go for when I was single: one who was never available to me (the 'gray area' type). This is getting more interesting as the comments progress. Thanks for the link. I'll have to check it out.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I'm just beginning to realize how many people have the same kinds of obsessive thoughts I do. I'm in my 50s, have done this my whole life, and am really just starting to understand the why's of the pattern. For me, my mind leaps to fill in the gaps of whatever details I don't know or whatever I'm unsure/insecure about. I've noticed I jump to more and stranger conclusions about people who are subtle. These folks intentionally leave their communication partners to figure out what they are getting at. It's nondirective. It's a style. Or, they simply don't want to share details. Either way, the situation is quicksand for my brain and leads to all kinds of speculation, worry, and misunderstanding (i.e., torture). And, yes, it is SOOOOO embarrassing to learn you've been carring around the wrong idea. I do best when people are direct with me, and I've learned to make that clear. Also, I recently read a short article on 4 steps to use to break the cycle of obsessive thoughts. It's actually working a bit for me already. It's called "Managing Compulsions and Obsessions" by Maryland Institute. The point is to keep yourself aware that the thoughts are generated by a part of the brain that isn't functioning properly. Check it out.

    • brandyBachmann profile image


      10 years ago

      Great information ^^ it's good that people should know about these things. i am also quite obsessive about things myself and i can't get it out of my head unless i do something about it. i don't do rituals though to relieve my stress but i have the impulsion to do something about it asap. and yes i agree with you that it's also a good thing that we don't miss out even the tiniest detail but the downside is we also tend to forget to look at the bigger picture.

    • KristiRiley profile image


      10 years ago

      Great post!!!!!

    • donotfear profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Thomas 

      10 years ago from Northeast Texas

      H.C.Porter: I'm so glad you commented on my article! I too have learned to identify when I begin the process of rationalizing and filling in blanks, as you describe. Even though it may be utterly false! It just inflates. The trouble I have is making the discomfort in the pit of my stomach go away when the event/thought/person is tapping away at my thought process saying..."what if....yeah, but you did...well, she probablly thought you.....I wonder if he'll...." You know the deal. Whew, it wears me out thinking of it!

    • donotfear profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Thomas 

      10 years ago from Northeast Texas

      electricsky: thanks for your response. I'm glad you found my hub, for the most part, understandable. I tried to write it in easy to understand terms.

      Gracie: I understand, honey! I too work myself into situations I create in my mind. Then when the actual facts are apparent, it's like I think, "Oh!..why was I so worried? Why did I inflate that?" Boy do I feel stupid sometimes! I find the hardest thing I do is create assumptions about a situation when I don't really know. Actually, this seems to happen when I'm left hanging by someone....which, in it's own right, is legitimate. However, I still blow a situation up and assume it to be one way without the actual facts creating a virtual torture chamber for my brain. We shall overcome!

    • H.C Porter profile image


      10 years ago from Lone Star State

      Wow, this is a great hub! With OCD- I have the obsessive thought problem, which is a constant struggle, day to day. I worry about everything, and my worries turn into rationalizing and filling in the blanks of my concerns, to a point that a simple problem captures my mind and tortures my thoughts. It is horrible, but I know that this is happening so I am getting better at learning how to stop myself with obsessing over the minuet details of a self created thoughts, that may or may not be true.

      Through life, I have experienced that this is a disorder that is hard to explain to others, because they cant see how it can disable you in a sense-and make things harder to achieve. I have actually been asked, OCD is when you get everything done perfectly, right? My response is, if my mind lets me- most of the time it is my mind never stopping, because I feel as if nothing is going to get done, or I will make a mistake or I look for a reason for everything that is the way that it is.

      Now that I am done babbling- Great Hub-Great Explanation. Rated Up and Stumbled....Thanks

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I also am an obsessive thinker and I was delighted to see your hub on the subject. You capture the experience well. And yes, it causes a lot of trouble sometimes. I'm just working myself out of a situation I created in my mind about a year ago and have daydreamed about since then. I've always been a thinker. Like you, I've done some serious self-analysis and grown a lot in the process. I agree about the value of having this kind of mind -- it's perfect for evaluating children, which is part of my job. My reports have been criticized as too long, too. Anyway, I enjoyed reading your hub - I'm new to this and thinking (!) about starting my own. I journal about ideas like the ones you post. Wasn't sure if this was a good site for the subject - if you don't mind my asking, how did you choose Hubpages? Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.

    • electricsky profile image


      10 years ago from North Georgia

      Very professional definition of obsessive-compulsive behavior. I just read a hub on drug addiction and hope there is another treatment besides drugs for this problem as they are a problem too.

      Wish I could add more to your hub but I am not too professional and do not quite understand it. But thank you for the information.

    • donotfear profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Thomas 

      10 years ago from Northeast Texas

      Madison22: Thank you from a fellow MH professional. Yep, we understand it. Especially when we have it. I thought if I described in detailed, everyday language, it would become clearer to the reader. I'm choosing to lay off of medication and find the thoughts invading at breakneck speed. However, I think the worst part of it is the "obsesssion of assumption" that builds things in our mind based only on our assumption, not on actual facts. That's a whole new hub.

    • Madison22 profile image


      10 years ago from NYC

      This is an excellent descriptive insight into those who suffer from obsessive thoughts. Me being quite familiar with obsessive thinking can agree with it being very challenging and also still, work in some areas like in your career. All in all like you said we can learn how to appropriately deal with obsessive thoughts and not let it take ruins over our lives. Thank you donotfear, rate up!

    • donotfear profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Thomas 

      10 years ago from Northeast Texas

      Sage: I'm glad my personal experience has helped you in some way. That's the ony way I know how to explain the process is to describe exactly how it affects me.

    • donotfear profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Thomas 

      10 years ago from Northeast Texas

      50 Caliber!!!! You crazy aging hippie!!! I could only expect it from you, my friend and fellow nut. How eloquently put. I've not had the pleasure of Xanax. However the Thai stix......? I think back in the 70's one time. But I still obsessed.

    • donotfear profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Thomas 

      10 years ago from Northeast Texas

      Art 4 Life: Thanks friend.....I know I drive you crazy with it. I just can't help it!

      Heart4theword: Prayer is the KEY to overcoming all things.

      Christianbooks: glad the information was helpful. It helps to write from a personal perspective.

      cheaptrick: Well, dude what can I say? Obsessing over dicisions is my specialty! Glad to know we share the same obsession!

      CariJean: Yes maam. You're exactly right. A combination of prayer and therapy can bring us forward with leaps and bounds.

    • Sage Williams profile image

      Sage Williams 

      10 years ago

      Very informative and well written. I really loved your introduction.

      Thanks for sharing your personal experiences. It helps so much to really understanding what it is truly like. I have had many occasions where I have become obsessed with thoughts, but never to the point that required medication.


    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 

      10 years ago from Arizona

      How do I spell relief? benzodiazapine which is short for Valium or Xanax or just a good old fashioned "Blunt" rolled out of Thai-sticks......

    • Cari Jean profile image

      Cari Jean 

      10 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      I too have struggled with obsessive thoughts and I can totally empathize with the statement you made, "It usually (but not always) focuses on an event, person or action that was hurtful; almost like I want to torture myself." Interestingly, like Veronica Allen, mine began after my c-section. What has helped me has been treatment for depression, talk therapy and lots of prayer.

    • cheaptrick profile image


      10 years ago from the bridge of sighs

      Hi,a D.I used to be Obsess over making decisions about my Business projects because our employees are like family and depend on us for there living.My partner helped me to see that what was best for the business would benefit the majority and those we lost were the sacrifice we had to make.Sounds cold but it's the way of business unfortunately.



    • christianbooks profile image


      10 years ago

      Interesting topic ! The information was nicely written, kudos! Having the information you have shared can help me and perhaps others as well to fully understand the ways and reasons of obsessive thoughts and what we could do about it

    • heart4theword profile image


      10 years ago from hub

      Prayer is what helps me, even singing a positive song, thinking on good words, remembering scripture. There have been times I have been under the torture of thought. In these moments they didn't stop...until, I was able to find 1 or 2 other people, (who where right in their own hearts spiritually), to pray for me and with me. These times, where a big help for me, a load was lifted, and my mind made anew:) A great hub, for people to relate to!

    • Art 4 Life profile image

      Art 4 Life 

      10 years ago from in the middle of nowhere....

      Well...another good hub donotfear!!

      You clearly pinpoint the disorders, and have alot of good information here....hugs to you friend...

      Art 4 Life

    • donotfear profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Thomas 

      10 years ago from Northeast Texas

      sheila b.: Yes, that is exactly like it. Only the obsession can be anything. Your mind literally reaches out and takes it back. The way I deal with it is to stay busy, interact with others, communicate, pray, stay involved in interesting ativities and "let go and let God". Funniest thing is that I can actually CATCH MYSELF before and stop it before it hits. But it's not easy sometimes.

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 

      10 years ago

      Is this like hearing a song and then remembering it throughout the day? That happens occasionally, and I know how annoying it is.

    • donotfear profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Thomas 

      10 years ago from Northeast Texas

      Hello: thanks!

      samboiam: hey, a fellow NE TX comrad!

      Micky: You need some Prozac?

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      10 years ago

      I'm just glad I never obsess about anything. Well maybe just a tad. A little. Not much. Just once in a while. I don't spend too much time on it. I can see how someone might. Not me though. I'm pretty normal. Mostly normal. I think I'm average. Maybe above average. No I'm average. I can't see myself being obsessed by anything. Well almost nothing. I'll have to think about this for a while. I'll get back to you. My favorite show is coming on- "Monk".

    • samboiam profile image


      10 years ago from Texas

      Thank you for this hub. It was worth the time. I used to live in Northeast Texas - Southwest Arkansas region. Loved it.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      10 years ago from London, UK

      A very interesting read and I thank you for writing such a great hub.

    • Veronica Allen profile image

      Veronica Allen 

      10 years ago from Georgia

      Although I've never been diagnosed with Obseessive thoughts, I can clearly remember even as a child, being plagued with agonizing thoughts that just wouldn't go away. I'd actually lose sleep over it.

      The older I got, the more I learned to control it but when I had my kids - especially shortly after having them via C-section - the thoughts came back with a vengeance.

      I'm not sure if it was a combination of the pain, the medication, and the stress of mommyhood that pushed me over the edge, but I literaly became paranoid.

      I cried for two weeks straight after the birth of my first child, and would be afraid to go to sleep (at night only) since I was always bombarded with thoughts of dying and the though that my poor child would be without a mother.

      It took a lot of praying, a lot of getting and staying busy, and a lot of support from my mother and other family members that got me out of my funk. Every now and then (especially when I've lost a lot of sleep) those same thoughts creep back slowly to haunt me.

      Your personal experience is very reassuring to others who have gone through it or are still experiencing what it's like to suffer from the down side of obsessive thoughts.

      Thank you for sharing your story with us. Hopefully, the knowledge that others can empthathize with your situation will be a source of comfort.

      * I'm sorry my comment was so lengthy, I do tend to go on and on when I feel passionate about something.

    • donotfear profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Thomas 

      10 years ago from Northeast Texas

      I like what you say here, Ghost Whispere "....sought help--took meds--and eventually found the right coping tools-no more meds--and is dealing great!"..That is the ultimate goal. When the mind/brain is so depleted of the chemicals in the above diagram, it makes it a physical thing. Medication is to regulate the thought process so that we can begin to think logically again and so develop new coping skills.

      Unchained Grace: Very interestng input. It's difficult for some to understand the complexity of a disorder like this being in a physical sense. You are very right about over analyzing small issues. It can be self defeating in the process. Thank you!

      Paula: Hi. Glad you enjoyed the read.

    • Ghost Whisper 77 profile image

      JG the IGNITER 

      10 years ago from The U.S. Government protects Nazi War Criminals

      An honest and excellent hub! Obssesive compulsive disorders are very difficult to treat without medicine-initially. The patient has great fear of these obssessions/compulsions and is not able to concentrate on healing-due to these intrusions. Often--they are brought about by repression of long ago trauma which bubbles up out of seemingly nowhere.

      Often meds can be taken and once tools are taught--carefully weaned off-when coping tools are taught--meditation etc--and yes--often a personal choice-but sometimes it is far better than to suffer.

      I had a friend of mines husband suffer for so long in silence, she wondered why he started up drinking too much and when he finally broke down and told her some of the disturbing thoughts he was having--he was self medicating with alcohol--he sought help--took meds--and eventually found the right coping tools-no more meds--and is dealing great! The initial meds definetly helped him--and saved a small family! :)

      And there is unchained grace-the ninja-who wasn't there when I started typing comment-and then BASH BOOM BAH..I send comment and ninja man is there!

    • Unchained Grace profile image

      Unchained Grace 

      10 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      Let me address this in terms of having a vision or a dream.

      Typically, we arrive at the end goal on paper. What is it we want to ultimately see happen? Sure, there will be steps and levels towards obtaining this goal.

      When we get obsessive on micromanaging the smaller details, we lose sight of the big picture. We dwell upon the minute points. Back off on the micromanagement and see how each smaller detail fits into the end goal. Unless you do that, you drive yourself and everyone around you up one tree and down the next one and still manage to beat that one point into a shape which no longer fits into your final goal.

      There's nothing wrong with being meticulous. However, when you over-analyze each step of your journey, you look down to make sure you place your feet exactly where you think they're supposed to go and in so doing you never see the tree you're about to walk into.

      Donotfear, I like the way you set this up and explained it. Sometimes we just get so caught up in the little things, we allow these things to act as quicksand in our life.

    • PaulaK profile image

      Paula Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Austin. Texas

      Good insight and detail. Thanks for sharing!


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