Obsessive Thinking & ROCD
Hi. I'm a 16-year-old boy and I have been struggling with anxiety since earlier this year. I had some anxiety attacks and horrible feelings and felt like I was losing it. After some time I was able to control my anxiety attacks, but still, somehow, I felt anxious and depressed. Two months ago, I started having unwanted bad thoughts about people I love. Thoughts of them dying in a violent way, or sexual unwanted thoughts. Anyway, I spent one month trying to get rid of these thoughts and it didn't work. That's when I used the Internet to find out about Obsessive Thinking. Well, I was kind of happy to know this isn't such an uncommon condition to have, but it didn't calm me down so much. Eventually, after I learned some techniques, I started to deal better with these thoughts. But then again, they are coming back more often now for some reason. I try not to fear them, but as soon as I realize, I'm already fearing them. And after I read some bad things on the Internet, things got a little bit uglier. Like, if I love someone really badly, I usually worry about really loving them and stuff. I wouldn't consider this ROCD since I'm not in a relationship right now, so... is this common? Am I just obsessing? Sometimes I have feelings like I will never be able to get over these fears and obsessions and things like that, which makes my thoughts even worse. I don't really know how to deal with this anymore. I went to talk to a therapist and she said I should be distracting myself, but I don't really think this is something I should be doing all the time, because the thoughts will come back anyway. That's why I don't like meds either. I don't feel like talking to my parents about this whole thing because I don't believe they would understand. It's just crazy, it feels like I'm worrying so much about every single detail and bad thought in my mind, which is making me so horrified. Would you mind giving me useful tips? Btw, I have already read a lot of things on this site today and they are already helping me. Thanks a lot.
Reply from Sound-Mind.org
Thank you so much for taking the time to write. For many people, obsessive thinking is one of the most difficult anxiety symptoms to deal with and it causes a lot of emotional distress especially when it's not understood.
I think it's wonderful that you are working with a professional therapist. Even though you are not finding distraction to be a good method for dealing with your obsessions, it is important that you recognize that this is just one method. I would definitely share your thoughts and concerns with your therapist. Although distraction works well for some people, it isn't for everyone and so if you are having some issues with it, your therapist will want to know.
ROCD, for those who do not understand what you mean, is an unofficial term that some people use to describe obsessive-compulsive disorder that revolves itself around relationship anxiety.
It is not uncommon to obsess about relationships or the people we love, especially when suffering from an anxiety disorder. During stress and anxiety, we have a tendency to want to protect and control. The mind searches for those "what-if's" and tries to remedy the situation beforehand so that you feel "in control" and "ready" for whatever happens.
What I have found to be true is that the initial panic and anxiety experience is so traumatic and unexpected, that we work extra hard to protect ourselves from future surprises...especially horrible ones. Because we have felt "out of control" and fear "losing it", we do all we can to protect ourselves and others from those feared, imagined situations.
If you think about the obsessions you have, you will notice that they are all based on one core fear. That fear usually stems from the fear of "losing control". By dealing with this core fear, you will be helping to eliminate many other fears.
One thing you must understand when it comes to obsessions is that you cannot run away from them. By running away you are subconsciously telling yourself that your thoughts are to be feared and avoided, when in fact, they are thoughts and only thoughts. By running from them, you are making them stick around and are giving them more importance than they deserve.
By pushing them out, they simply persist. By caring so much, you keep them alive and ever present.
By accepting your thoughts as nothing more than thoughts, and giving them permission to exist you are stripping them of their power.
You have to think about those obsessive thoughts like bullies of the mind, they want to take over and be the one that gets the most attention. The more you try to push them out, the louder and more persistent they become. But, when you go on with life, letting them exist and not giving them the attention they so crave, their voices become softer and eventually fade off into the background until eventually you forget they are even there.
Be sure to check out the section on Obsessive Thinking. There is a great book that listed there that will help you understand obsessions a little better. As with all recommended books, they are available through your local library as well.
Try to hang in there and keep pressing on. I know you feel like this will never end but if you stay persistent, and do what is necessary, you will have a breakthrough sooner or later.