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What is it like to have obsessions?

What is it like to have obsessions?

If you have a loved one who is complaining that they can’t get certain things out of their head, it might seem really confusing if you haven’t experienced it.

You might think, “Well, just try not to think about it.” You might wonder if they are being dramatic or they are anxious about something else entirely and they aren’t telling you.

We’ve had clients who have repeatedly checked the stove, needed to continually rearrange the refrigerator, washed their hands so much they bled, pulled their hair out, obsessed about germs and food poisoning, were convinced they would fail tests, couldn’t stop thinking about an ex or a lost friendship, had obsessive thoughts about spiders and other bugs, or they were convinced something bad would happen to a loved one. 

Some have obsessions that they will hurt other people.

Some have obsessed they would hurt other people accientally or that other people would hurt them. Some were convinced the ceiling would fall through on their family and it terrified them so much so that they wanted all heavy objects removed from the second floor.

Some obsessions are dangerous.

Some obsessions can become dangerous as the person may limit their food intake or keep trying to avoid cracks in the sidewalks to the point they aren’t noticing cars coming. They might even take too much medication believing they are physically ill. Obsessions can become delusional.

I’ve tried to get clients to help explain what their minds sound like in order to help them become mindful.

What the mind is saying? When we increase their level of mindfulness, it creates a space that can help them create a choice point.

One client explained it like this (shared with permission):

My brain is like a spiral that is so overwhelming and repetitive and convincing and draining. It says, “What if you are sick, what if you get everyone around you sick, what if you get food poisoning, what if you fail this test…” The ‘what ifs’ go on for so long I start to feel literally nauseated and take medicine for it. I call my mom and ask her to call me out of school. I lay in my bed, unable to eat or think of anything else, people tell me “it’s no big deal, get over it”.  I have nervous tics because of the constant worrying then I worry people notice those tics and think I am weird. Sometimes, I try to count while doing things and I have to count to very specific numbers. The counting is exhausting, too, as is all the people telling me to “Just. Get. Over. It”. Nothing helps. Sometimes after three days of obsessing I will suddenly realize that my brain lies. It’s not true! I realize I am not actually physically sick, I am mentally sick. Then, suddenly, I feel better and can go to school.

Does anything help with obsessions?

There are many treatment approaches like ERP (Exposure Response Prevention) mindfulness, and books like Brain Lock by Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz.

Treating any underlying anxieties can also be helpful as the top level anxieties are sometimes hiding other fears.

Working through past traumas can help, too, as can SSRIs/anti-depressant medications. (You need a medical provider for this).

If you feel it might be time to talk to someone about your obsessions, please reach out. Obsessions take energy from your life. There are ways to settle them down and we are here to help!


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Free Clear Mind Therapy provides in-person therapy in Fishers & Indianapolis and online therapy across Indiana. Specializing in anxiety therapy for teens, adults, and kids.

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