For someone who is suffering from depression, anxiety, or another mental illness, it is common that thoughts are non-stop, even when you are trying to concentrate on other tasks. This is known as obsessive thoughts and one of the most commons signs of an anxiety disorder.
Obsessive thoughts are one of the telltale signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder. These obsessive thoughts are often violent, sexual, or even fearful in nature. The thought may change depending on the situation, but once they’ve entered your mind, the person will do anything to get rid of it.
I found myself in this predicament for a number of times. I would be doing a daily task, and due to the thoughts which were non-stop in my head, I would forget where I had put something or I would begin to walk off to get something and forget what it was I was going for. I found this more frustrating, and as I punished myself with forgetting, it would start another cycle as I would be overthinking what I forgot before and then I would forget another task due to the thought train going around and around.
Thoughts appeared to be non-stop 24/7, never giving up, and one thought would snowball into another thought, and I found that most of the time the thoughts would begin as minor thoughts and becoming ever more catastrophic until a point where I would worry myself about an outcome that was never even a threat, to begin with. Having my thoughts all over the place is indeed a hindrance to my memory; it was at this point when I began to realise I wasn’t forgetting things and I didn’t have a bad memory. I found it most frustrating when I was a reading a book and was struggling to remember the storyline, characters, or any other basic details. Looking back on it now, I was constantly thinking about thoughts, and these were distracting my attention from the book, and I would find myself reading the same page about five times, and sometimes still struggling.
It was at this point I began to do something about it and started to get my memory back, even though it hadn’t gone, as I felt I was capable of much more. I started to use Buddhism as a way of life and using mantras, and meditation to begin to focus my attention. This began to work, and I started to focus more; I was also able to take more control of my thoughts, and not allow them to control me. The techniques which I learned were to see thoughts as passing cars on a motorway, as I was sitting on the verge watching them pass by. This was a good way to begin to look at the thoughts, as it took me out of them, and I was no longer interacting with them. Looking at thoughts like this, I started to concentrate more and more, as I was aware of when the thoughts were distracting me, and able to counter this and concentrate better on what I was doing. I began to get my thoughts involved in what I was doing and being in the here and now, and not interacting with my thoughts, and getting distracted by them.
Having constant thoughts is distracting to everyday thinking and completing the most mediocre and daily tasks. I found it upsetting at times, and it too also got me down as I didn’t feel I was capable of learning new things or retaining any information at all. The techniques which worked for me, I feel will work for anyone, the difference will be the time scale which it takes to regain control of thoughts; I am now at the point with my mental health where I no longer need to be conscious of controlling my thoughts, they come and go now like passing clouds in the sky.
Dale Burden is a correspondent for Psychreg. He holds a dual honours degree in Psychology and Neuroscience from Keele University.
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