On Obsession – How To Stop Thinking About Someone All The Time
Lingering feelings for an ex, or a hard-to-shake fixation with someone else in your life, can take a toll on your mental well-being and make it difficult for you to develop healthy relationships in the future. This level of obsession can even be indicative of one of several different mental health conditions. If you find yourself pining over someone excessively, getting to the root of your feelings and addressing them can help you move on. In this article, we’re discussing what can happen if you find yourself thinking about the same person all the time—and how you can stop.
The Potential Dangers Of Obsession
It’s natural to think about an ex after you’ve parted ways or to be strongly attracted to someone who may not feel the same way about you. Lingering feelings for an ex can turn into a problem, though, if they become too strong. Similarly, an obsession over someone in your life whom you haven’t been romantically involved with can be damaging to your mental and emotional well-being. Even obsessing over a current partner can create an unhealthy dynamic.
When you have ruminative thoughts about someone, you may find that you struggle to focus, experience strong feelings of jealousy, or engage in maladaptive behaviors (e.g., reaching out frequently). Obsession can cause excess stress to build up, potentially impacting your physical health as well as your mental health. It may also be a sign of a mental health condition like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder (R-OCD), or obsessive love disorder (OLD).
An excessive focus on one person can complicate your life and lead to serious challenges. You may have difficulty at work, struggle to form healthy relationships, or isolate yourself. Obsessions can cause you to struggle to keep up with care tasks and experience disruptions to your sleep and eating patterns. They have also been linked to increases in substance use. Despite these potentially serious effects, obsessions can be managed and overcome with the right approach.
Causes Of Obsession
Obsessions can arise for a number of reasons, including unresolved challenges in a relationship or certain mental health concerns—even the way our brains respond to rejection can cause a hyper-fixation to develop. Losing a relationship with someone you care for, or having feelings for someone who doesn’t reciprocate, can impact our self-worth, causing us to try even harder to form a connection with this person. The following are some reasons why you may be fixating on one person in your life.
Unresolved Relationship Conflict
If you’re still strongly attracted to a former partner, it could be because you feel the need for closure. Sometimes, relationships end before major issues are resolved. For example, you and your partner might have abruptly ended things because of a fight and haven’t addressed the situation since. This can make it hard for you to accept the breakup and move on.
Individuals who experience one of the insecure attachment styles can develop unhealthy levels attraction to romantic interests. Attachment theory posits that the way we related to our primary caregivers early in life affects how we relate to others in the present. There is a large body of research connecting anxious attachment, in particular, to obsession. Someone with an anxious attachment style may experience serious distress when their relationship is threatened, which can cause them to obsess over the subject of their affection.
Relationship Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
A hyper-fixation on a romantic interest may be a symptom of (R-OCD). Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by repeated intrusive thoughts, often about a specific fear. With relationship OCD, these fears are related to a partnership.
People with R-OCD can become obsessed with their partner or relationship, to the point where the condition becomes debilitating. And that fixation can continue even after the partnership is over. Someone with R-OCD may become overwhelmingly focused on the possibility that the subject of their obsession has romantic feelings for someone else or is in danger.
The Rejection-Obsession Connection
Another possible reason for obsession is the link between romantic rejection and excessive desire. It is common for humans to want something even more when we know that it’s unattainable. And this desire extends to other people as well. Research shows that the areas of the brain that are activated when we experience rejection are the same as those that lead to addiction. This indicates that unrequited love can cause us to be even more drawn to the person who isn’t reciprocating our feelings.
Obsessive Love Disorder
Although it isn’t listed in the DSM-V, obsessive love disorder (OLD) is recognized by many as a mental health condition that embodies the type of obsession we’re discussing. With obsessive love disorder, an individual may think about the person frequently, experience strong emotions related to them, and try to get as close to them as possible.
How To Address An Obsession
If you find yourself fixating on a former partner or another person in your life, finding out the source of your feelings and addressing them can help you move on. The following are several strategies for coping with obsession and developing healthy relationships.
Understand Your Triggers
Do you often think about this person when you watch a particular tv show, eat at a specific restaurant, or pass by their apartment? Knowing what triggers feelings of obsession can help you limit the amount of time you spend thinking about the subject of your fixation. Try to recognize moments in which you tend to think about this person. You may even want to write in a journal each time it happens. This can help you identify stimuli that provoke obsessive thoughts.
Once you’ve identified your triggers, there are several ways you can avoid encountering them. Consider putting away pictures, gifts, or other mementos that remind you of this person. You can also remove their number from your phone and unfollow their social media profiles so that you aren’t tempted to interact with them as often. You may even want to alter your driving routes so that you don’t pass by their home.
If your lingering feelings are related to unresolved conflict with an ex, there are ways you can find closure. If you’re on speaking terms with your former partner, consider reaching out to them to talk through the end of the relationship. You can clarify sticking points that may have led to your breakup. For example, your ex might have told you that they needed some time alone without giving you any more information. By talking to them, you may find that they were going through personal challenges or focusing on their career and couldn’t balance having a relationship as well. Gaining this type of clarity can make it easier for you to accept the end of the relationship and move on.
If your ex isn’t willing to talk, consider chatting with someone in the family or friend who has first-hand knowledge of your relationship. They may have a new perspective on your breakup that you hadn’t considered or insight that helps you understand why the relationship ended.
Psychotherapy can help you get to the root of your feelings, process them, and move forward in life. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), for example, is considered a particularly effective method of therapy for obsessions. Research shows that CBT can help participants address symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, which can lead to repetitive, intrusive thoughts about one person. Through CBT, a therapist can help you understand how your thought patterns, emotions, and behaviors are linked and give you the tools to stop unwanted thoughts. A therapist can also set up role-playing scenarios in which you can have mock conversations with your ex that might help you move forward.
How Online Therapy Can Help
There is a growing body of research pointing to online therapy as an effective way for couples to address both their relationship and individual mental health challenges, such as those presented by relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder. For example, the results of a study of 300 couples show that participants in an online therapy program experienced significant improvements in relationship confidence, quality, and satisfaction. Additionally, researchers found that online therapy helped reduce anxiety symptoms and improve overall quality of life.
If you and your partner are struggling with relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder or similar challenges, online therapy can help. With an online therapy platform like Regain, you and your partner can get matched with a therapist based on your needs and preferences, so you’ll have a good chance of working with someone who can address your specific areas of concern. You’ll also be able to reach out to your therapist outside of sessions; so, if you have a question about something you discussed in therapy or want to know more about relationship OCD, you can send them a message, and they’ll get back to you when they’re able.
Unrequited love can be hard to experience, potentially leading to hurt feelings, tension, and obsession. By working to process these feelings and, possibly, reaching out to a mental health professional, you can foster healthy relationships and improve your emotional well-being.
Wondering how to stop having thoughts about someone? We know it can be difficult but the licensed therapists at ReGain are here to support you and help you work through your constant thinking about this person.
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