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"I can't stop thinking about it. I can't."



A common mantra by people who struggle with mental compulsions, overthinking, anxiety and/or OCD is that they can't stop worrying or thinking about something. Maybe it's whether the lump is cancer or whether their partner is the right person for them. The person might wonder, Did I say something that offended someone at that party? Let me think about it and replay the dialogue. It feels like I will arrive at a conclusion. A place of certainty. The certainty never comes, but the desire to compulse, to overthink perpetuates.


The notion that one cannot control their thoughts is a false belief about thinking or a false metacognition (i.e., the awareness of one's own thought processes). I acknowledge that NOT thinking about a worry is difficult, but it's not impossible. One of the ways to accomplish this brain muscle of not rumininating is through meditation, mindfulness, or specifically a technique referred to as attention-training technique (ATT). ATT helps someone to develop the skill of purposefully turning attention away. Yes, the thought will likely pop up again like a brutal game of whack-a-mole but with focus and ATT, you can reduce the amount of time ruminating, which is a mental compulsion aimed to reduce anxiety but propels the anxiety--compulsion cycle. I encourage my clients to give ATT a try with videos on Youtube.

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