Obsessive thinking disorder is a condition in which a person is enslaved by a vicious cycle of thoughts and compulsive behavior. This article dwells on the causes, symptoms and treatment of this disorder.
Obsessive thinking disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder is a type of anxiety disorder, that enslaves a person in a vicious cycle of thoughts and behavior. People with this disorder often find themselves troubled by a series of harrowing thoughts and obsessions, which they feel are out of their control. About 3.5 million adults and 1.2 million children in the US, are believed to be inflicted by this condition. It occurs in men and women equally, irrespective of race or ethnic background. This condition is the fourth-most common mental disorder and is diagnosed as oft as diabetes mellitus and asthma.
Obsessive Thinking Vicious Cycle
Obsessive thinking patterns emanate for the first time either in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. Obsessive compulsive disorder comprises thinking way too much, which can spearhead compulsive behavior. This disorder involves surging of ideas, impulses and images in a person’s mind over and over again. It involves thinking, fantasizing, ruminating, etc. and is considered to be an emotional defense technique, used by people to dissociate from the emotional pain one has experienced.
Such thinking enables a person to detach from the present and live in the past or the future. The person manages to sever himself or herself from the current horrendous situations and the pain associated with it and enters a different world, free from the unpleasant feelings. However, such emotional defense is dysfunctional and acts like sweet poison. One may feel one is running away from the pain, however, this only spearheads more unpleasant feelings, thereby resulting in a vicious cycle.
One kind of fantasizing is ‘worrying’, which is negative fantasizing. In this condition, the fear of the unknown grasps the person, where he or she worries about the future, which further conduces to more worry and fear, and the cycle goes on and on. Worrying about the unknown is a normal phenomenon, however, this kind of amplifying fear is different. This kind is termed as codependent fear, which is a magnified, deleterious and distorted kind of fear, conduced by a false belief that they are unworthy individuals. They begin to despise their thinking, existence and even condemn themselves for being so fearful. This kind of fear is self-destructive and self-perpetuating.
Obsessive thinkers find this cycle of thoughts disturbing and annoying, which is why they resort to performance of compulsive rituals and routines, with the hope of warding off the thoughts. These rituals manage to provide temporary relief from obsessive thinking and depression, however, they do not destroy the vicious thought-cycle, as yearned by the sufferer. The person performs the same compulsive behavior when the obsessive thoughts return. Obsessive thought cycle devours a person’s entire day and interferes with his or her normal activities. The sufferer knows this obsessive thinking is having a negative impact on his or her life, but is unable to take control of the mind.
Symptoms of Obsessive Thinking Disorder
Obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms can vary from person to person, depending on the kind of thoughts surging through one’s mind. Some of the fears that rein in the minds of such people are:
- Fear to fail or make a mistake
- Fear of embarrassment
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of causing harm to others
- Fear of thinking sinful or evil thoughts
- Fear of contamination by germs and dirt
- Excessive doubt
- Need for constant reassurance
- Being paranoid about cleanliness, order and precision
Such trepidations lead to compulsive behavior such as:
- Being paranoid about touching door knobs and shaking hands
- Washing hands and bathing over and over again
- Arranging things constantly in a specific fashion
- Collecting items that lack monetary value
- Repeating specific words or phrases
- Constantly counting aloud
- Repeatedly checking if the doors and windows are locked.
- Eating food in a specific order
- Performing certain tasks over and over again
- Dwelling on certain disturbing images, words and thoughts
Factors Conducing to Obsessive Thinking and Anxiety
The root cause spearheading this disorder has not yet been pinned down. It is believed that a combination of biological and environmental factors contribute to the occurrence of this condition. Medical research has revealed that there are certain chemicals in the brain, that are responsible for carrying messages from one nerve to another. One such chemical is called ‘serotonin’ (neurotransmitter), which helps the mind from repeating certain behavior. Lack of appropriate amounts of serotonin can be one of the causes of obsessive thinking disorder. This lack of adequate levels of serotonin can be genetically passed from one generation to another.
An imbalance in brain chemistry is seen to have an impact on emotions, however, it is difficult to say if this imbalance conduces to the disorder, or the disorder causes chemical imbalance. It is similar to the egg and hen dilemma. This means that medical science is still uncertain whether it is the emotional trauma that causes the chemical imbalance, or chemical imbalance that causes the obsessive thinking.
Obsessive thinking and relationships go hand in hand. Obsessive thinking in children can be triggered by the occurrence of certain horrendous and harrowing situations in their lives. Dysfunctional relationships at home and unstable family or social atmosphere can cause this kind of instability in the child’s mind. Stress regarding finances, relationships, work, illness, death of a loved one or emotional, physical and sexual abuse can be the causes of this disorder. Moreover, chronic drug usage or side effect from certain medicines can also cause this disorder. Any kind of traumatic injury occurring as a child, or adult can also be the underlying causes of this disorder.
Obsessive Thinking Disorder Treatment
The symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder can be severe and may require medication, so that the patient can cope with the condition until he or she learns how to deal with the root cause of the problem. Obsessive thinking disorder medicines that increase the serotonin level in the brain can be given to the patients. Cognitive behavioral therapy is also recommended for people suffering from this disorder.
What will help treat this condition is teaching the person how to deal with his or her problem. Stress caused by any kind of abuse during childhood can haunt a person’s adulthood. These horrendous issues have to be addressed. The patient needs to confront the issues that have been buried within himself or herself, for years together. The old wounds occurred not to the physical body, but to the human spirit have to be reopened and healed. Getting the patient to vomit out all the poisonous thoughts and letting go of the bitterness harbored all these years, are the first steps towards the healing process.
Showing them how they are not condemned beings, but lovely unique people will help them feel accepted and loved. This will help them move from a world of intimidation and shame, to confidence and mental freedom. They need to be taught how to love themselves, and not nail themselves for being highly sensitive humans. The best part about this disorder is that it can be dealt without the dependence on medicines. The patient needs genuine care and love and should be shown how important it is to deal with issues of the past, no matter how horrendous they are!
2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us about “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”. This is the way one can get out of the vicious cycle of thoughts. However, giving every thought to the Lordship of Christ is not possible without the help of the Holy Spirit. We are to ask the Holy Spirit to help us submit every thought to Him. The Lord Jesus answers to all who cry out to Him and turns none away. Luke 18:7, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?” Trust in the Lord and He will set you free!