Can't stop obsessing

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-06-2009
Can't stop obsessing
Sat, 07-24-2010 - 11:58pm
Hi there. I am new here - 30, female, married, professional. I have a long history of depression/anxiety, but life has been very good for the last few years, and I don't consider myself "depressed" anymore. Overall I am a happy person. However, I can't seem to turn my brain off. I obsess over everything, and just generally think too much/read too much into things. I am hoping you can share advice or support to help. Without getting into a long explanation of why, I will not go to talk therapy and know this just isn't worth my time. I am working with a general practitioner about my latest issues - the major thing being that I am insomniac, and until she prescribed Ambien, I never realized how abnormal my sleep was (without the Ambien, I have constant, lucid nightmares, so I sleep an hour or so, wake up in a fright, then take a couple hours to fall back to sleep briefly and then continue the cycle). The Ambien helps turn off my brain so I can sleep now, but life in general is getting annoying because I can't stop obsessing over trying to figure everything out. I am especially fixated on relationships and trying to figure out how people feel about me. I need support. I hope someone can offer some advice and recommend something I can do that has worked for them in a similar situation.
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-08-2005
Sun, 07-25-2010 - 3:10pm
Hi- I can relate to everything you shared. i would read some of the coping methods in the folder below this one and try some of them. Breathing correctly, meditation, yoga, etc. can help take the edge off of the worrying.
Good luck and post again. /Hopefully some of the other women who know more than i do about this will answer your post.
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-12-1998
Mon, 07-26-2010 - 10:22am

Starryjune, I can relate to the obsessing and how frustrating it is, but have some thoughts that might make you feel a little better.

There's a late doctor (Claire Weekes) who wrote several books on anxiety disorders (and has completely changed my life and the way I view anxiety disorders). In the book of hers that I have she discusses obsessing as being the sign of an exhausted mind. According to her it is a symptom of not getting enough rest. Giving her the benefit of the doubt has proved this to be true in my case. My obsessing has pretty much died out providing I am getting enough sleep; but if I have a few bad nights the obsessing will be huge and seemingly uncontrollable. At those times I remind myself that my thoughts are doing that because I am tired- that is all. I wonder if after a few weeks, or even a few months on the Ambien your body and mind will be rested enough that the obsessing will fade away.

A technique that I learned to use in conjunction with accepting that the obsessing was actually sleep deprivation, was a technique called "turning the mind." That is, any time you find yourself obsessing, you tell yourself to stop. It is as easy as that, and it is as hard as that! If you do this, you will probably find yourself mentally screaming "STOP!" several thousand times a day initially, but over time it can change your thought patterns. It can be a VERY long process so unfortunately many people give up on it too quickly- potentially it can take months. The idea here is to not let yourself remain in the pattern of obsessing, so the sooner into it you tell yourself to stop, the less far down the road of obsession you will go. For me, my obsessing starts with generally one of several topics and proceeds through a thought pattern that is somewhat akin to a movie line. By telling myself to stop as soon as I recognize the "opening credits" I don't make it very far into the "movie." In time the obsessing settled down, because I never got that far into my habitual thought patterns and the long, drawn out scenarios that were standard with my obsessing. That's not to say that the obsessions are completely gone, but they do not generally go completely out of control like they use to.

Honestly, from what I've read I'd lean toward thinking that your obsessing might be largely linked to your long term sleep deprivation. Try to be gentle with yourself and give yourself a little time to see if your new sleep habits also help with the obsessing.

Best of luck.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-06-2009
Mon, 07-26-2010 - 12:11pm
This is very encouraging - I guess I need to be patient and hope for the best. I definitely know that getting sleep, even if that means I have to take Ambien for another couple months, is pretty critical. Even one nightmare (and thus bad night of sleep) can put me in a rotten mood the whole day, remembering the bad feelings associated with the nightmare AND the frustration of not being able to fall back to sleep. I will also try the techniques you suggested - the "STOP!" when the first "paragraph of my soapy novel" (lol) begins. Thanks again. I will try to stay in this community to learn more about you and others and to feel connected to others with similar problems. Thank you.
Avatar for firstglimpse
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-08-2003
Mon, 07-26-2010 - 2:03pm

The "stop" method really did not work for me UNTIL I learned how to meditate a little bit. I used guided meditation - because sitting quietly w/no brain activities is just torturous - I was able to learn how to let thoughts enter & leave. With that practice I was then able to use the "stop" method with a neurotic thought process.

Now the biggest success in meditation is learning to let go of the past & stop planning the future & focusing on the present.

I cannot afford, nor have I had good luck with, talk therapy. So I've been using all sorts of methods to help myself & feel I've come a long way without medication or therapy.

If you go to Amazon & you'll find lots of workbooks for anxiety. I think this helped a little.

What has helped me the most though are the following:

Diet & water
Listening to meditation topic talks or meditation training.
Allowing myself personal time every day.

Now my sleep is far from better. I have nasal polyps which will block my air passages - so sleeping meds will not help me. I had surgery & by the time I had recovered from the surgery I was already a mess again & am now being told I need surgery again.

With that said, even though my sleep is usually disrupted I've been able to find a lot more peace in my life with the above.

Sleep is really important to keep depression away as well. Sleep begets sleep, so hopefully you'll be sleeping naturally again real soon.

(I've probably learned most about living in the present from the podcasts provided by


"Only when we are sick of our sickness shall we cease to be sick."

~ Lao-Tzu, from The Tao Te Cheng

"Only when we are sick of our sickness shall we cease to be sick."

~ Lao-Tzu, from The Tao Te Cheng
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-11-2004
Mon, 07-26-2010 - 3:28pm
Hi & welcome to our caring community. I am sorry to hear about the obsessive thinking.
Since your med seems to have turned it off for the night & you're sleeping better, I'll address the daytime obsessing. Having racing thoughts, obssessions & even an occasional intrusive thought myself, I understand how difficult life can be. Until I learned how to meditate, throwing up the stop sign in my head didn't work either. Nowadays, when it gets very intense, it's easy to relax, belly breathe, say my OM's;) & refocus. There have been times that it was too difficult to *fight* the thoughts, so I would tell myself I would saturate myself w/the obsessive thinking for 15 or 20 minutes, then make myself move on. Distractions work. I have done needlecrafts, read books, balanced my checkbook or other math problems, wrote lists of the 50 States or named all the Indian tribes, etc. Anything I could think of to replace the obssessions. It takes time & patience & also motivation. Everyone wants to be better yesterday, but this is a process. Practice makes perfect.
Sleep is important & so is exercise. A little yoga & a lot of walking not only improves the health, but raises the endorphins(feel good hormones) & burns off the anxious feelings. It also helps to think in the present. When I walk, I don't allow myself to ruminate. I focus on the sky, the weather, nature & it sights & sounds. This is kind of a zany idea, but I read about it & it works. Find yourself the biggest tree you can & embrace it. Lie on the ground & basically hug that tree. Imagine how it has deep roots that keep it centered, standing upright, un-bending no matter if there's strong winds. Imagine yourself as an extension of the tree & that you are strong, un-bending & firmly attached to the ground.
I hope you find your balance quickly & get back into the business of living the good life you deserve. Don't be a stranger. Post anytime. GL & GBU! We care. (((hugs))) jan



iVillage Member
Registered: 10-12-1998
Tue, 07-27-2010 - 10:18am

Firstglimpse, great point about refocusing your energy. I cannot sit with a blank mind either and it's important to find a positive place to "turn your mind."

My mantra became "What is, not what-if" because so much of my obsessing was based on what-if scenarios. When I would 'turn my mind' from the obsessing, I would force myself to turn it to something in the present- something in the 'what is' category. I found it helpful to get up and just move slowly around the house, focusing on things that are present and need to be attended to. A lot of times it was a slow and painful process and the obsessing seemed to follow me everywhere, but over time it got better- anyway, that is how I refocused my mind and learned to be more in the present.

I have somewhat learned to do what you referenced about letting thoughts come and go without judgment. Sometimes I feel like the logical, emotionless Mr. Spock on Star Trek, "Captain, isn't it strange that something as mundane as _________ affects me in such a way?" I don't think the process has made me less emotionally connected, but rather it has made me less emotionally vulnerable to what amounts to nothing more than thoughts.

Enough rambling though...