Obsessive Thoughts and How I Manage Them
If you lose yourself in obsessive thought spirals or cycles, you are not alone. I have come a long way with managing my obsessive thoughts. Here is my process for dealing with those thoughts that won’t go away.
I have found that bipolar disorder and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) often go hand-in-hand.
What Is OCD?
The National Institute of Mental Health defines OCD as “a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.” Dictionary.com describes it as “of or relating to a personality style characterized by perfectionism, indecision, conscientiousness, concern with detail, rigidity, and inhibition.”
OCD and Hypomania
In my experience, those obsessive, compulsive behaviors are at their worst when I am hypomanic. Once I get an idea in my head, I can’t let go of it until there is some sort of resolution. I might be waiting for an e-mail, waiting for someone to call me, or updating my website. But until I get that e-mail, receive that phone call, or update my website, I can’t think about or do anything else. I will check my e-mail every two minutes; I will pace around my home until that e-mail or call comes; I will work on my website for eight hours without stopping until it is completed.
Luckily for me, those hypomanic episodes are few and far between right now. But even between episodes those compulsions are not far away. They are always just below the surface. I have to consciously think of ways to control them. While I’m waiting for that e-mail, I can proceed with other work on my business, clean the house, or run some errands. I find that doing something physical is a good way to escape from those obsessive thoughts and behaviors.
Obsessing and Relationships
The way in which OCD has affected my life the most is when I meet a member of the opposite sex and we start dating. I can’t seem to stop myself from sending multiple text messages throughout the day, even if I don’t get a response. Then I will up the ante and send e-mails. Because being in a loving, committed relationship with a member of the opposite sex is something I want badly, I seem to sabotage myself every time by coming on too strong, too soon. I make up my mind about people very quickly and know after the first date whether this is someone I would want to spend the rest of my life with. I forget that most people aren’t like me. They need more time and space.
Using Distraction as a Tool
I have learned, over the years, that when I start obsessing, the best way to cope is to distract myself by doing something else. Does it always work for me? No. There are times when I want to continue obsessing. But I keep trying over and over again to find a way to stop the obsessive thoughts. I might call a friend, do some housework, or pull some weeds from my garden.
When I look back to when I was first diagnosed with bipolar, in 1996, I can see that the obsessions and compulsions have decreased substantially. I believe this is because of the work I have done on myself to learn to manage bipolar effectively.
If you are new to being diagnosed with bipolar, I want you to know that with work and patience you, too, can learn your own ways to stop obsessing and engaging in compulsions.