What are typical obsessive thoughts?
Most of us would agree that we get stuck on things that we enjoy. At times, it may seem like we are always thinking about our favorite show, song, game, or activity. For instance, we may talk about the same artists over and over again and know all about their lives. Or watch all of their TV shows. Other times we may be fascinated about a new activity, like practicing a new sport, and know all there is to know about it. These types of obsessions are typical, usually do not last long, and generally do not interfere with our day-to-day lives. It is also typical that some thoughts that are not wanted or that seem strange, such as thinking about throwing our phones out the window of a moving car, come to our minds from time to time.
When should I pay special attention to obsessive thoughts?
If we are unable to clear our minds of thoughts or worries we don't want to have, this may be a cause for concern. Unwanted thoughts can also leave us distressed or interfere with our schooling, activities, or social lives. These types of thoughts may be indicating a bigger issue.
Here are some examples of unwanted thoughts and worries that may be a cause for concern:
- Silently counting to a specific number or counting objects to ensure there are a certain number of them.
- Repeating words mentally until they feel comfortable or “just right”.
- Making and repeatedly reviewing mental lists.
- Thinking or “replaying” past interactions over and over again to reassure ourselves that we did not offend someone or hurt their feelings.
- Having recurrent worries about bad things happening.
- Having frequent worries about germs or dirt (even when it is not justified).
- Repeatedly reassuring ourselves that bad things will not happen.
- Feeling the urge of asking other people about our worries over and over again.
What can I do if I struggle with obsessive thoughts?
It can be hard and frustrating to deal with obsessive or unwanted thoughts. If you understand that you struggle with them, there are a few things you may try:
- Ask a trusted adult for help. Trusted adults are usually our caregivers, other family members, or someone else who is responsible for taking care of us. Let your trusted adults know about your difficulties. They can be helpful for assisting you and helping you get any additional help you may need.
- Remember that thoughts are not the same as facts. We can think about anything we want. Inside our minds we can go anywhere in the world without actually going anywhere. A lot of thoughts come to our mind on a daily basis and not all that we think about are facts. So, sometimes, it is important to take our thoughts a little less seriously.
- Remember that we all have weird thoughts from time to time. It is very common for every person to have thoughts that are considered weird, such as throwing our phones out of the window or even punching someone we are talking to on the face. Thinking about it doesn't mean we want to do it, and thinking about it doesn't mean we are going to do it..
- Think of thoughts like train wagons passing by and don't dwell on them. Our thoughts are like train cars passing in front of us. They come and go if we let them. Try not to attach to a thought or voluntarily continue thinking about it. Instead of jumping onto the train, let it go and let it pass.
- Avoid asking for reassurance for your obsessive thoughts. Sometimes we feel the urge to seek reassurance about things that we are repeatedly thinking about. Even though receiving reassurance may help us feel less worried in the moment, it can also reinforce our worries.
If you have already tried some or most of these suggestions and the problems you are facing persist, it may be time to ask a trusted adult to seek out professional support.
Obsessive thoughts that are too frequent, intense, present in many different contexts, discrepant from those experienced by others the same age, and that negatively interfere with our daily lives may indicate the possibility of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
What kind of professional support can be sought out?
It is not unusual for us to feel embarrassed, inadequate, or guilty if we are struggling with obsessive thoughts. But, if you think you are facing this difficulty, support and guidance are available now.
Pediatricians or family physicians can help to address initial concerns and refer to specialized professionals. Also, whenever possible, a consultation with a mental health professional may be helpful.
The public system provides services through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Centers of Multidisciplinary Assessment, Counseling, and Support (KEDASY).
Where to find more information
Specific, detailed, and clinical information on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can be found at [clinical short guide at the program website].
If you want to know more about the closest available services for educational and public health systems for children and adolescent assistance across the country, go to our Services Mapping webpage here.
You can also find more information by pointing your phone camera at the QR code below or by clicking here.