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How do I stop my obsessive thoughts created by anxiety? Do I avoid the triggers or get used to them?

17 Answers
Last Updated: 07/26/2021 at 10:34am
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
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Brenda King, PsyD


I treat life changes, women’s issues, and issues of aging using evidence-based treatments with healthy doses of warmth, empathy and humor to enhance healing and growth.

Top Rated Answers
March 2nd, 2015 6:18pm
Neither! If an obsessive thought is a cry for help—and it is—bring the help that's asked for. You wouldn't neglect a crying child, yet we all neglect our negative thoughts, which are the mental equivalent. Let's say you are in a difficult situation and you start thinking, "What's wrong with me?" or "How will I ever get out of this?" Acknowledge that you are feeling scared, which is the real event occurring in your mind. Don't push the anxiety away. Take a break and walk away from the immediate stress. Sit quietly and take some deep breaths. Do your best to center yourself. Once you feel calm enough to address the situation, make a plan. Write down the possible steps you can take that will be positive, achievable actions. (The point here is to use the rational side of the brain rather than giving in to runaway emotion.) Once you have your list, put the positive actions in order of which to do first, second and third. Now take the first step. Turning an emotional event inside yourself into a set of rational steps is one of the best ways to rise above the level of the problem to the level of the solution. Good luck! :)
March 3rd, 2015 1:54pm
With most things, exposure helps to overcome them. For myself, I was very obsessive about books on shelves being straight, but being in a classroom with 'friends' and boyfriends (of a friend) who would purposely knock the book around to annoy her and I, eventually helped me to become okay (somewhat) with it. I still have obsessive tendencies sometimes, but exposure definitely helps t make them less frequent, and more manageable.
April 14th, 2015 4:45pm
We have to learn to balance and live with it. Avoiding the trigger, or get used to them can be either all or nothing thoughts. Acknowledge the shortcoming in our character, and decide the 'actual' threshold where we must actually react or ignore can be helpful when we meet it again. Distracting ourselves from those thought may help as well. It helps us to see the beauty of mindfulness in the presence.
May 2nd, 2015 4:43pm
Good question! I think it's important to get used to the thoughts, to get really comfortable with them – to the point that they don't hold as much power anymore. If you let the thoughts in, and don't fight them as much, you'll find you don't react as much. Eventually they become "just thoughts" – you can act on them if you like, or not. A useful strategy for dealing with unwanted thoughts is the Unwanted Party Guest metaphor. Check it out here:
August 4th, 2015 10:54am
Hello! I've had some bad experiences with my anxiety during a relationship, where I had these obsessive and really obnoxious thoughts. The things that mostly helped me was talking directly about it in the first place, finding a good distraction you can get back to, like reading or playing a certain game or sewing. I'd also recommend to make little reminders that prove your obsessive thoughts of being wrong.
September 7th, 2015 3:35am
Everybody is different. There is no one answer. You can only do what is best and what works for you. You can try to find things or interests that work for you. Such as journaling, or hobbies that interest you. If they are interfering with you normal life then try seeking the advice or help of a trained counselor or therapist to help.
September 29th, 2015 12:48pm
Find something that you know will distract you from them. Write, listen to music, hang with POSITIVE people, play video games, watch tv/youtube. Or even write about the thoughts and maybe that can help. But eventually when you've mastered these coping skills, they will become second nature to you and you won't have to worry about the triggers.
December 22nd, 2015 5:03am
I've read that it is better to get used to triggers rather than avoiding them, for if you are caught off guard, it could be significantly worse. I am also suffering from anxiety, so I cannot suggest a whole lot, but I've read that combating your fears and dreads at the time you feel most relaxed is the best way to overcome your anxiety. Sorry I couldn't offer much, but hope this helps a bit :)
December 28th, 2015 7:16pm
Avoiding triggers can be ideal, but can be difficult to do depending on your anxiety/phobia. Getting used to them could be like exposure therapy, which might be too intense for some. I would recommend seeking professional help to help cope with the anxiety, or look to alternative medicines. Once the anxiety gets better or goes away, the thoughts will too.
February 23rd, 2016 10:18am
Obsessive thoughts in itself are too strong by nature. The way to counter that is to have some positive thought more powerful than the obsessive one. Remember while watching a movie you don't come across the obsessive thoughts. You might find it similar to repelling the Dementors with a Patronus charm :) :)
June 7th, 2016 12:26pm
Distract yourself, take it one step a time
August 15th, 2016 8:42pm
If you avoid the triggers you are faced with all the time, it may be harder to enjoy your day. Instead you should try to slowly come to terms with these triggers and become more acceptant that they do trigger you.
September 13th, 2016 12:23am
Sometimes triggers are unavoidable. Try to find things that settle your anxieties. For me, I listen to podcasts to take myself out of my own mind.
November 21st, 2016 6:25pm
Personally, I try to avoid the triggers. Obviously not every trigger can be avoided but understanding the triggers is a huge step and in turn allows you to try and avoid them.
June 27th, 2017 6:18pm
It might be best to do things that keep your kind on happy thoughts to reduce or eliminate your anxiety. Avoiding the triggers if possible may be the best options. There are also medication if it is something that affects your quality of life. So talking to a professional would be the best course of action.
August 13th, 2018 6:39am
Avoiding the triggers could help, personally i'd rather avoid the triggers than try to get used to them, but if you want to try and desensitize yourself from the triggers, thats a valid option as well. with desensitizing tho, make sure you go slowly, dont push yourself too hard, and dont beat yourself up if it feels like it isnt working, getting used to stuff that once triggered you can be a long process but it can work
July 26th, 2021 10:34am
I do not think that avoiding anything is helpful, but 'getting used to it' is not the term exactly either. The best way to stop one's obsessive thoughts is to first recognize that it is indeed obsessive and irrational. Then with the help of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) techniques, one can shift these irrational obsessive thoughts to rational ones by making use of role-play. To decrease the affect of the trigger on anxiety, CBT also makes use of desensitization, which is where the person is exposed to the triggering stimulus for a number of times that its affect has subsided and one has apparently 'gotten used to it'. It can also make use of exposure therapy where one is flooded with the triggering stimulus but most people might feel extremely uncomfortable later on. Relaxation techniques such as guided imagery where one's mind and body is brought in sync, or progressive muscle relaxation techniques can also be useful to alleviate symptoms of anxiety. Hope this post has helped answer the question! :)