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Do you find yourself in the “hamster wheel” of obsessing over someone?
I recently spoke to a neighbor, Laura, who confided in me that she couldn’t stop thinking about her ex-husband.
He had been the love of her life, but she had to let him go because he was not a suitable partner for her. Now that he was gone, she felt like she could never find a significant other.
She tried dating other men, but they just didn’t compare to what she had with her former spouse. Every time she began dating someone new, it was like she was comparing them to him and finding them lacking.
It wasn’t fair to those guys—and it wasn’t fair to herself either! She needed help to figure this out.
So, I’m dedicating this blog post to her and to you, if you find yourself in a similar position of obsessing over someone.
There are effective strategies to use when trying to stop preoccupying thoughts about someone else, even if it seems it will be a never-ending quest to do so.
"An obsession is intrusive because it does not require a permit to walk into the brain." - Jose A. Yaryura-Tobias
What Does Obsessing Over Someone Mean?
When you obsess over someone, it means that you spend an excessive amount of time thinking about that person—a futile and counterproductive exercise. You may do this because you are missing the person and want to reconnect with them, or because you are trying to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it.
But what does it actually mean to obsess over someone?
Obsessing over someone is a form of attachment disorder. It involves forming an emotional attachment to another person, even when that person does not reciprocate the emotion.
Here, the obsessive person may continue to pursue the object of their affection even though they are not getting any positive feedback from the other person.
Alternatively, the person who is obsessing may just ruminate about another person and take little or no action to connect. However, he or she is caught in a web of emotional entanglement, where thoughts about someone are spun and re-spun in a repetitive cycle.
You may wonder: How does obsessing over someone feel?
Obsessing over someone can manifest in different ways depending on the personality of the obsessive person.
Some people may feel like they are in love with this person and want to be with them all the time; others may feel jealous or possessive of their loved one, while still others may become depressed or anxious if they don’t have enough contact with their target.
And how does obsessing over someone manifest?
Obsessing over someone isn’t a healthy way to feel about someone. It can lead to unhealthy relationships and even provoke physical symptoms like headaches and stomachaches.
The first step in learning how to stop obsessing over someone is by identifying the symptoms of it so that you can recognize when you’re feeling this way.
Once you’ve identified your own symptoms, the next step is to look at the situation objectively. I’ll expound on this concept in the “strategy section.”
Suffice to say, obsessive thoughts and feelings can come from a variety of sources, including:
- Anxiety. If you’re worried about a situation or person, you might find that your mind keeps coming back to it. This can be related to a specific thought (for example, “What if I fail?”) or an overall sense of worry or fear.
- Intense emotions. If you’ve had an intense experience with someone—for example, if they’ve hurt you—it’s possible that your mind will continue to return to that experience and replay it in your head repeatedly, especially when you’re feeling vulnerable or stressed out.
- Unresolved conflict. If there’s something going on in your life right now, that’s making you feel conflicted (for example, maybe your ex isn’t happy with how much time you’re spending texting him or her), then this may cause your mind to keep circling back over the same thoughts again and again until they get resolved by your letting go or changing your course of action.
Effective Strategies to Stop Obsessing Over Someone
"Obsession is the single most wasteful human activity, because with an obsession you keep coming back and back and back to the same question and never get an answer." - Norman Mailer
When you’re obsessing over someone, it feels as though your entire life is wrapped up in how they act toward you. It’s like they’re the sun and you’re a planet that orbits their orbit.
It’s time to stop spinning out of control. Here are 11 methods to slow down and keep your feet on the ground and your mind level-headed.
1) First, understand what you’re doing and how it’s undermining your mood and day. You’re doing several things when you obsess over someone:
You’re probably spending too much time thinking about the other person, which is helpful if you’re trying to solve problems together or are looking for an answer to a question, but not so helpful if you’re just ruminating on their behavior.
It’s easy to get caught up in our own thoughts when we’re alone, but if we don’t push ourselves to get out of that headspace and back into reality, those thoughts can dictate our actions and cause us to do things that make getting answers even trickier—like calling them incessantly.
You might alternatively engage in some magical thinking: that if you think about something enough or fervently wish for something long or hard enough, it will come true.
Thinking about someone obsessively may seem like a way to feel closer to them, but it can actually have the opposite effect in the long run.
If you want to maintain a healthy distance and keep your relationship as platonic as possible, then you’ll need to avoid constantly letting your mind wander toward romantic fantasy—it’s only going to end up making you feel more anxious and crazy.
2) Here are other key ways to stop obsessing over someone: create physical distance and emotional distance. If you can’t stop thinking about someone, physically moving away from them might help. That way, you’ll avoid situations where you’re likely to run into them or talk to them.
It’s easier said than done, but once you’ve moved away and stopped talking to them for a while, it’ll be more obvious that they’re not worth obsessing over.
Emotional distance is harder to achieve, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Try to stop caring so much about the person—don’t let your thoughts dwell on how much you miss them or how much you still love them.
Don’t fix your relationship or think about what could have been if things had gone differently between the two of you.
Don’t keep bringing up memories that make thinking about them more appealing. The best thing to do is try not to think about them at all—try focusing on the present instead of dwelling on the past.
3) Set limits and change your perspective. You may not stop obsessing over someone just by telling yourself that you shouldn’t be doing it, but sometimes, just setting a specific limit on how much time you spend thinking about them can help achieve what needs to be done.
By identifying just how much time you’re spending thinking about this person and refusing to go beyond a more reasonable time thresold, you will find yourself in a much better emotional state than before.
You should also try to change the way you think about the person—if you associate them with certain things or places, try your best not to go there or do those things until your mind has rid itself of the obsession.
Changing your routine is an effective way of getting yourself out of the way of an obsessive thought pattern,
4) Repeat your mantra: Within the first month of obsessing over someone, come up with a mantra that will serve as a reminder of why it’s unhealthy for you to spend so much time thinking about this person.
This could be something like “I am not my emotions,” or “It’s better for me not to dwell on this.”
Try writing your mantra on an index card and carrying it around with you so that it’s always available to help you when the obsessive thoughts return. Say your mantra out loud whenever they do return, and try to absorb its meaning.
5) Defeat the illogical nature of obsessing over some by asking logical questions, such as
- Is this really worth my time?
- How is overthinking this relationship getting me anywhere?
- Would I rather be doing anything else than spending my time like this?
- Am I really making a difference by thinking about this?
- What good does it do for me to keep looking at my phone or going on social media every few minutes to see if there’s any new information?
- Am I really making myself feel better by constantly revisiting old information?
When you have the answers to these questions, chances are they’ll help guide you toward better decisions.
6) Keep busy with other activities. It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of thinking about someone else when you’re bored and have too much time on your hands—so get out there and do something! Or at least keep yourself busy with other things so that you have less time left over for worrying about them.
Engage in an activity that doesn’t allow for excessive self-reflection, like going for a run. When you go running, simply tell yourself that this is your time and think about how good it feels to run regularly.
7) Widen your social circle. When you’re in the throes of that all-consuming, can’t-stop-thinking-about-them, have to have them now kind of crush, it’s so easy to get caught up in your own head and forget that the world is wider than you or even the two of you together. It’s easy to forget that there are other people out there who will enrich your life.
But when we focus our energies on one person, we can forget about everyone else—which may not be healthy for a relationship (or any kind of friendship) in the long run.
Think about joining a club or volunteering; if you’re less focused on yourself, it should be easier to stop obsessing over someone.
8) Practice mindfulness and other coping strategies. Mindfulness can help you stop obsessing over someone by teaching you to turn your attention to the present moment. It can also teach you to be more self-compassionate and more aware of what’s really going on in your mind.
Mindfulness does not mean to forget about the other person, but accept the fact that it is impossible to control them By focusing on how you feel and how your body reacts when you see, think, or hear about this person, you will identify what is triggering your obsessive thoughts and feelings.
Once you can identify what is causing these feelings and thoughts, you can work on finding a healthier way of coping with them. This could include positive coping skills such as meditation, journaling, talking out loud with a trusted friend or writing an email to yourself that explains how you feel and why.
It could also mean distracting yourself from thinking about this person, by engaing in other interests (e.g., reading a book, listening to music, or taking up a new hobby).
By becoming more mindful of yourself and the situation, you will find healthier ways of dealing with your feelings without obsessing over someone who may no longer be in the picture for good reason.
9) Take a break from social media. When you’re obsessed with someone, it’s easy to fall into the trap of stalking their social media accounts for signs of a relationship. But when you take a break from all this virtual surveillance, you might find that your obsession has faded.
It’s important to keep in mind that your preoccupation with this person probably stems from underlying issues—for instance, you may feel a subconscious urge to be in a relationship so you can start fulfilling some other aspect of your life, or you may feel insecure about yourself and want to be validated by someone else.
When you take steps to address these issues in your life, they’ll lose some of their power over your behavior.
Step away from this stuff for a bit and instead focus on your own life—it will enhance your psyche and keep your mind off others who aren’t as important as you may believe.
10) Build your own sense of self-worth and decrease insecurities. When you’re feeling insecure about your own self-worth, it’s easy to look for someone else to validate you—but people who are in relationships are likely struggling with their own issues of self-confidence, so they may be unequipped to do so.
Instead of trying to get a relationship with someone else, work on developing your own sense of self-worth. It might seem like this could take forever, but the best way to improve your self-confidence is by taking small, manageable steps.
Here are some tips to feel better about yourself:
- Don’t compare yourself with what other people have or what you think they have.
- Stop the self-criticism and sel-defeating thoughts.
- Think about things you’re proud of and remind yourself of them when you’re feeling down. Whether it’s a recent accomplishment or something you did long ago, just remember that there are many things on your resume that speak to how exceptional you are.
- Take greater interest in your physical and mental health through proper diet, exercise, sleep, mindset, etc.. These healthy habits will improve all aspects of your life.
- Be a friend to yourself by doing things that make you happy.
11) Reach out to family and friends who can provide support and comfort during this difficult time. Loved ones can help you break that cycle of incessant thoughts and feelings. Glean, what other people have done in similar situations, and see if any of those strategies work for you.
If not, consider speaking with a trained professional. This is especially true if your obsession is interfering with your life or causing any undue stress on yourself or others around you.
Final Words About Perseverating Over Someone
"All extremes of feeling are allied with madness." - Virginia Woolf
When we think about someone, it’s natural for us to feel a strong emotional connection to them. But if you obsess, you may miss out on what’s happening right now and the opportunities that exist around you.
In order to stop obsessing over someone, first understand the difference between an obsession and a healthy interest in someone.
Excessive thinking and preoccupation characterize obsessions.They often involve dysfunctional emotions like anxiety, fear, or anger.
They can also take up too much of your time, making it difficult to enjoy your hobbies or engage in other activities that used to bring you pleasure.
It’s amazing how much an unrequited crush can consume your thoughts. You can’t stop thinking about him or her, and nothing else seems to matter.
While it’s important to remember that those feelings are just a part of you, they can also be very distracting. If you’re feeling this way, you need to make sure you’re keeping your mind off it.
Hopefully, the strategies I’ve outlined above can free you from an unnecessary obsession with someone. It’s my wish that they help you combat the intrusive thoughts and behaviors that are compromising your quality of life.