Okanagan Panorama

How can I stop myself thinking about bad thoughts?

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As originally answered on Quora.com ... 

 

I have a word stuck in my head and I can’t get it out.

~~~ 

The answers to your question are all over the place. I think that the suggestion that you were possessed by demons was even eluded to. I’m assuming that you are not into do-it-yourself exorcism.

 

Based on the limited amount of information provided in the question, I will not make any further assumptions, but will provide you with some professional advice.

You sound like you are identifying stuck thoughts. The anxietycentre.comanxietycentre.com says this about stuck thoughts: thoughts, mental images, concepts, songs, or melodies that stick in your mind and replay over and over again. Some refer it to as “obsessions” or obsessional thinking.”

 

They go on to say:

  • Thoughts, concepts, mental images, melodies, or songs seemingly get “stuck” in your mind. No matter what you do, you seemingly can’t stop your mind from thinking of them over and over again.
  • It seems you can’t get a stuck thought out of your mind.
  • In every undistracted moment you find your mind replaying the unwanted thought, concept, melody, or song over and over again.
  • No matter what you do, you seemingly can't stop your mind from thinking of the stuck thought over and over again.
  • Even after a good sleep, you wake up and the stuck thought starts to play all over again.
  • In every undistracted moment you find your mind replaying the unwanted thought, concept, melody, or song.
  • These thoughts are like a hamster running on a squeaky hamster wheel in the background. No matter what you are doing, that squeaky wheel seems to be always turning.
  • Many become distraught and worry that their mind is stuck in a never-ending loop. Others fear that the loop could get worse and may never end.
  • This anxiety symptom is often referred to as unwanted and repetitive thoughts. Some refer to it as obsessions or obsessional thinking.
  • You may become distraught and worry that your mind is “stuck” in a never-ending loop.
  • Others fear that the loop could get worse and may never end.

They go on to say:

 

The stuck thought anxiety symptom can be about one thought over and over again, can switch to another stuck thought over and over again, or can change and shift between a variety of stuck thoughts over and over again.

The stuck thought anxiety symptom can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you may have a stuck thought once and a while and not that often, have it off and on, or have it all the time.

The stuck thought anxiety symptom may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.

The stuck thought anxiety symptom can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur ‘out of the blue’ and for no apparent reason.

The stuck thought anxiety symptom can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.

The stuck thought anxiety symptom can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

These stuck thoughts are often referred to as 'earworms.'

~~~

The site goes on to describe the causes of ‘stuck thoughts’ and then describes ways to get rid of them.

 

Some short-term strategies to eliminate the stuck thoughts anxiety symptoms include:

 

Reduce stress – reducing the body’s stress is the best way to eliminate stuck thoughts, since stress is a major cause.

Increase your rest and relaxation – since a major cause of stuck thoughts is stress and fatigue, increasing your body’s rest can help the brain eliminate stuck thoughts.

Get good sleep – resting the body, including getting good sleep, often eliminates stuck thoughts once the body has caught up on its sleep debt.

Ignore them – the less you reinforce stuck thoughts the faster they disappear. Recovery Support members can read about how neural networks work in Chapter 5.

Refuse to allow yourself to dwell on stuck thoughts – research has shown that suppressing thoughts and memories can actually eliminate them in time. Here is another example of how neural networks work.

Distract yourself – deliberately changing your focus can eliminate stuck thoughts in time.

Chew gum (or something healthier) – research has found that chewing something can eliminate ‘earworms’ for some people.

Don’t make a big deal out of stuck thoughts – stuck thoughts are just symptoms of elevated stress and/or fatigue. Making a big deal out of stuck thoughts makes them stronger. Not caring about them can help them subside.

Don’t worry about stuck thoughts – worry stresses the body, which can keep stuck thoughts going. Not worrying about them reduces stress, which can help eliminate them.

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One strategy for reducing the effect of obsessional thinking that isn’t listed above is that of using an elastic band. The idea is that you wear an elastic band around your wrist. When you get a thought stuck in your mind, stretch the elastic fully and let er rip! Will it sting? Most certainly. You can’t hold two completely different thoughts in your head at the same time. Smokers that trying to quit have had success with the technique. The urge to smoke is an obsessive thought as well.

If you don’t have any luck with these strategies, you may want to consider seeking professional mental health counselling. They can help you get your life back in control. There are anti-obsessional medications that may be recommended depending on your specific needs.

 

Thanks for your question and good luck with ridding yourself of this mind clutter.

Rae Stonehouse

Author Bio:

Rae A. Stonehouse is a Canadian born author & speaker. His professional career as a Registered Nurse working predominantly in psychiatry/mental health, has spanned four decades.

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