How to Cope with Obsessive Thoughts When You're Depressed
Many people have obsessive thoughts when they're depressed. For me, this is the absolute worst part of depression. Having "pure obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)", I deal with intrusive thoughts and obsessive thinking on a daily basis. Learning how to cope with these obsessive thoughts while depressed has been the biggest challenge of my life. In this post, I share what obsessive thinking looks like for me as well as a video on what to do when caught in an obsessive thought storm.
What the Obsessive Thought Process Can Look Like
When I'm anxious or in an agitated depressed state, I feel that I have to "think the thoughts out" to solve them. It's as if I have to get to the bottom of the thought and exhaust all thinking on that particular thought so my mind will be done with it. I will often write my thoughts out with the (misguided) idea that if I get the thoughts out on paper, then they will be out of my head. In reality, since one thought leads to another leads to another, there is no "bottom thought" that I'm able to get to. I find myself trapped, then, in an endless loop of depressed thinking and writing and rewriting. I figure that if I express my thought perfectly, then I can solve it and finally feel relief. Aiming for perfection, the rewriting of my thoughts can take hours and hours. I remember one writing session, when my obsessive thinking was completely out of control, where I spent five straight hours writing -- no bathroom breaks, no eating. I was just sitting in my bed, typing and retyping and retyping out all of these thoughts that would never end.
These days, I don't get quite as spun up with my obsessive thoughts. Currently, within the course of a day, I'll still have 10-20 intrusive depressive thoughts enter my mind. Typically, they are of mistakes I've made in the past. As I'm driving, I'll remember something embarrassing I said in the fourth grade and feel flooded with embarrassment. Or, while trying to fall asleep, I'll remember something dumb I did years ago and will be filled with guilt and regret. These intrusive thoughts of mistakes of the past have become a constant for me.
Obsessive Thoughts Are Not Character Flaws
One thing that has really helped me is to understand that it is my biological makeup causing this intrusive, obsessive thought process. This is not a character flaw; I am not weak. Instead, my mind is just being quirky. There have been times when I have been so upset with myself for obsessing over things. This heightened emotion only brought on more anxiety and more obsessive thoughts. When we are at war with our minds, it can make matters worse. So, be gentle and compassionate with yourself so that you can make the situation better.
For more ideas on what you can do when caught in an obsessive thought storm, please check out my video below.
Sedas, M. (2018, August 16). How to Cope with Obsessive Thoughts When You're Depressed, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, February 5 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2018/8/how-to-cope-with-obsessive-thoughts-when-youre-depressed
Author: Michelle Sedas
Usually these thoughts come to me when I'm driving. What should I do in this situation? I content to drive distracted but I'm already on autopilot and not paying attention when I'm in the negative thought zone.
Like you, these thoughts will come to me while driving. As much as I can, once I notice the obsessive thinking, I try to put all of my focus on what's around and in front of me: The scenery, the other cars, how my hands feel on the steering wheel, the music coming out of the radio. This can help to push aside the thoughts in our minds. Thank you for your comment.
This shows that expressing thoughts and feelings, which is the cornerstone of much counseling, is of little value with obsessive thinking. How many millions of people are getting inappropriate treatment based on expressing their inner experience.
I think to some degree it's good to express thoughts and feelings. However, it can cross a line into making the obsessive thoughts worse. Thank you for your comment.
Thank you for this post and video. Medication and therapy are effective tools for me in greatly reducing my obsessive thought patterns. Prior to treatment, I used to lie awake most nights obsessing over past mistakes and suffering from crippling anxiety about the future. I appreciate your sharing your experiences and helpful advice in this area.
You are so kind, Jennifer. Thank you for your comment. I'm glad medication and therapy have helped you.
The depressed mind always goes into the negative. It seems like you regress to all of the bad past. You think of the worse moments and the future is always negative. A person has to fill their minds with as much positivity as possible. A negative mind can never fill positive.
Hello John, Thank you for your comment. Yes, people do need to fill their minds with as much positivity as possible. Thank you!