How to Stop OCD Rumination

How to Stop OCD Rumination

OCD rumination is a distressing condition marked by repetitive cycles of harmful or intrusive thoughts. These thoughts are often about the past or things that you can’t change, which makes it even harder to deal with. If you’re experiencing OCD rumination, you may be feeling anxious and depressed about what to do. Luckily, there are techniques you can try on your own to break negative thought cycles. A mental health professional can help your explore other promising treatments like medication and cognitive behavior therapy.

Method 1 of 2:
Shifting Your Focus

1
Interrupt the cycle of thoughts with an active distraction. One of the keys to overcoming OCD rumination is finding ways to break the cycle of negative thoughts you’re experiencing. If you find yourself ruminating, force yourself to pay attention to something else. Reading a book, watching a movie, or listening to a podcast are just a few ways you might mentally shift gears. [1] X Research source You could also do things like call a friend, go for a walk, or spend time with your pet. Anything that causes you to shift your focus will work, including boring stuff like chores![2] X Research source
2
Change your environment and focus on what’s around you. A change of scenery is a simple but effective way to stop ruminating. Ideally, choose an environment that you enjoy! Getting outdoors can be particularly helpful, especially if you’ve been cooped up inside all day. A quick walk around your block can do the trick, but if you can, try hitting a nature trail, beach, or park. Nature can provide plenty of beautiful and interesting distractions. [3] X Research source Try focusing on something and describing it in your mind. Aim to create a running commentary about what you see. For example, you might think to yourself, “I see a tall tree with a thick trunk in front of me. The leaves are bright green and shaped like hearts. I see a bird nest high up in the branches and two squirrels on a lower branch...”
3
Try exercising to snap yourself out of the negative thought cycle. Ruminating lulls you into a physically inactive state because your energy is being consumed by your thoughts. Getting up and moving your body forces you to funnel some of that energy into a physical activity instead. [4] X Research source Choose an exercise that you like, whether that’s running, cycling, or doing yoga. Anything that gets you moving your body is good. Exercise also produces endorphins that can reduce anxiety and improve your mood.
4
Question the validity of your negative thoughts. Just because you think it doesn’t make it true! If you catch yourself ruminating, stop and ask yourself why. Did something happen to trigger the thoughts? Are they rooted in reality? If you can’t find any facts or evidence to back up your thoughts, you can deem them illogical. This may help you break the cycle. [5] X Research source For example, maybe you're thinking, “Why am I not over my breakup with Sally yet? I’m such a sensitive baby. People get broken up with all the time and they seem fine. Why am I not fine? There’s something wrong with me.” Start questioning each claim and you may be able to reason your way out of it. For instance: "It’s only been a week since we broke up. That’s really not that long. Most people are upset for a little while after a breakup. It’s normal!”
5
Talk to someone you trust about your thoughts. A trusted friend or family member may be able to offer different perspectives or even remind you that your thoughts aren’t rooted in reality. Talking to someone also prevents you from isolating yourself. Isolation often worsens ruminations and cyclical thinking. [6] X Research source For example, tell them about the thoughts you’re having and ask them to explain why these thoughts are inaccurate or off-base.
6
Carry a journal with you to help you identify your triggers. It may seem like your negative thoughts come out of nowhere, but there’s almost always a trigger, even if it’s a subtle one. When you catch yourself ruminating, stop to write down where you are, what just happened, the thoughts you’re having, and how the thoughts make you feel. After a while, you’ll start to notice patterns in these incidents and be able to pinpoint possible triggers. [7] X Research source Stopping to write in a journal interrupts your thoughts and forces you to concentrate on an action, so that aspect can also be helpful. Once you identify a trigger, do what you can to get rid of it or avoid it.
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Method 2 of 2:
Seeking Medical Assistance

1
See a psychologist or psychiatrist to confirm the diagnosis. If you haven’t been formally diagnosed with OCD rumination, make an appointment with a mental health professional so they can access what’s going on. Tell your doctor what you’re experiencing and answer their questions truthfully. Be as accurate and detailed as possible. [8] X Trustworthy Source American Academy of Family Physicians Organization devoted to improving the health of patients, families, and communities Go to source Confirming the diagnosis will help your doctor recommend tailored treatment options to get you on the path to recovery. In can be hard to talk about private or negative thoughts to someone you just met. Keep in mind that everything you say to your doctor is confidential and you will not be judged. They are there to help you.
2
Talk to your mental health professional about possible medications. There are a variety of medications available to treat OCD. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most common and have shown to be effective at reducing and managing OCD symptoms. Antipsychotic medications may also be helpful and some patients take both medications. [9] X Research source It may take 8 to 12 weeks before you notice any improvement after starting a new medication. Try to be patient. Do not stop taking your medication without telling your doctor first. Some medications cannot be stopped suddenly without causing possible health risks. Tell your doctor about any side effects as soon as possible, especially if the side effects are affecting your ability to function normally during the day.
3
Explore cognitive behavior therapy techniques with your doctor. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) can be an effective treatment for OCD rumination. There are many different CBT techniques out there, so talk to a mental health professional about exploring which techniques are best for you. [10] X Research source For example, CBT may include techniques like habit reversal training, self-management training, and exposure/response prevention.
4
Ask about new or experimental treatments that might be a good fit. This can be a good option if your OCD has been resistant to other treatments. New approaches in combination therapy and novel techniques like brain stimulation have shown promising results. If your doctor thinks you’re a good candidate, you may be able to take part in clinical trials for new OCD treatments and medications. [11] X Research source For example, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a new therapy that shows promise.
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Method 1 of 2:
Shifting Your Focus

1
Interrupt the cycle of thoughts with an active distraction. One of the keys to overcoming OCD rumination is finding ways to break the cycle of negative thoughts you’re experiencing. If you find yourself ruminating, force yourself to pay attention to something else. Reading a book, watching a movie, or listening to a podcast are just a few ways you might mentally shift gears. [1] X Research source You could also do things like call a friend, go for a walk, or spend time with your pet. Anything that causes you to shift your focus will work, including boring stuff like chores![2] X Research source
2
Change your environment and focus on what’s around you. A change of scenery is a simple but effective way to stop ruminating. Ideally, choose an environment that you enjoy! Getting outdoors can be particularly helpful, especially if you’ve been cooped up inside all day. A quick walk around your block can do the trick, but if you can, try hitting a nature trail, beach, or park. Nature can provide plenty of beautiful and interesting distractions. [3] X Research source Try focusing on something and describing it in your mind. Aim to create a running commentary about what you see. For example, you might think to yourself, “I see a tall tree with a thick trunk in front of me. The leaves are bright green and shaped like hearts. I see a bird nest high up in the branches and two squirrels on a lower branch...”
3
Try exercising to snap yourself out of the negative thought cycle. Ruminating lulls you into a physically inactive state because your energy is being consumed by your thoughts. Getting up and moving your body forces you to funnel some of that energy into a physical activity instead. [4] X Research source Choose an exercise that you like, whether that’s running, cycling, or doing yoga. Anything that gets you moving your body is good. Exercise also produces endorphins that can reduce anxiety and improve your mood.
4
Question the validity of your negative thoughts. Just because you think it doesn’t make it true! If you catch yourself ruminating, stop and ask yourself why. Did something happen to trigger the thoughts? Are they rooted in reality? If you can’t find any facts or evidence to back up your thoughts, you can deem them illogical. This may help you break the cycle. [5] X Research source For example, maybe you're thinking, “Why am I not over my breakup with Sally yet? I’m such a sensitive baby. People get broken up with all the time and they seem fine. Why am I not fine? There’s something wrong with me.” Start questioning each claim and you may be able to reason your way out of it. For instance: "It’s only been a week since we broke up. That’s really not that long. Most people are upset for a little while after a breakup. It’s normal!”
5
Talk to someone you trust about your thoughts. A trusted friend or family member may be able to offer different perspectives or even remind you that your thoughts aren’t rooted in reality. Talking to someone also prevents you from isolating yourself. Isolation often worsens ruminations and cyclical thinking. [6] X Research source For example, tell them about the thoughts you’re having and ask them to explain why these thoughts are inaccurate or off-base.
6
Carry a journal with you to help you identify your triggers. It may seem like your negative thoughts come out of nowhere, but there’s almost always a trigger, even if it’s a subtle one. When you catch yourself ruminating, stop to write down where you are, what just happened, the thoughts you’re having, and how the thoughts make you feel. After a while, you’ll start to notice patterns in these incidents and be able to pinpoint possible triggers. [7] X Research source Stopping to write in a journal interrupts your thoughts and forces you to concentrate on an action, so that aspect can also be helpful. Once you identify a trigger, do what you can to get rid of it or avoid it.
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Method 2 of 2:
Seeking Medical Assistance

1
See a psychologist or psychiatrist to confirm the diagnosis. If you haven’t been formally diagnosed with OCD rumination, make an appointment with a mental health professional so they can access what’s going on. Tell your doctor what you’re experiencing and answer their questions truthfully. Be as accurate and detailed as possible. [8] X Trustworthy Source American Academy of Family Physicians Organization devoted to improving the health of patients, families, and communities Go to source Confirming the diagnosis will help your doctor recommend tailored treatment options to get you on the path to recovery. In can be hard to talk about private or negative thoughts to someone you just met. Keep in mind that everything you say to your doctor is confidential and you will not be judged. They are there to help you.
2
Talk to your mental health professional about possible medications. There are a variety of medications available to treat OCD. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most common and have shown to be effective at reducing and managing OCD symptoms. Antipsychotic medications may also be helpful and some patients take both medications. [9] X Research source It may take 8 to 12 weeks before you notice any improvement after starting a new medication. Try to be patient. Do not stop taking your medication without telling your doctor first. Some medications cannot be stopped suddenly without causing possible health risks. Tell your doctor about any side effects as soon as possible, especially if the side effects are affecting your ability to function normally during the day.
3
Explore cognitive behavior therapy techniques with your doctor. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) can be an effective treatment for OCD rumination. There are many different CBT techniques out there, so talk to a mental health professional about exploring which techniques are best for you. [10] X Research source For example, CBT may include techniques like habit reversal training, self-management training, and exposure/response prevention.
4
Ask about new or experimental treatments that might be a good fit. This can be a good option if your OCD has been resistant to other treatments. New approaches in combination therapy and novel techniques like brain stimulation have shown promising results. If your doctor thinks you’re a good candidate, you may be able to take part in clinical trials for new OCD treatments and medications. [11] X Research source For example, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a new therapy that shows promise.
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