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Staying Well Together: How to Deal With Obsessive Thoughts


KIU, Main Campus - Obsessive thinking is an inability to gain control over recurrent, distressing thoughts and images, according to These thoughts and images are embedded in a complex network of feelings, sensations and often, behavioural routines.

Worry is one of the causes of obsessive thinking, and with the current COVID-19 lockdown, many people are experiencing worry in great volumes.

Dr Renee Engeln, Professor of Instruction in Psychology at the Northwestern University in Illinois, USA, with 14 years’ experience in psychology research, shares on how to deal with obsessive thoughts so as to maintain a healthy mental state.

According to her, negative emotions such as fear, doubt, guilt, or anger, are associated with obsessive thoughts. The more of these you have, the more negative emotions they stir up, setting off a vicious cycle of negativity.

Since it is almost impossible to deliberately avoid thinking about something, Dr Engeln suggests turning instead to distraction.

“Call a friend, write a letter to a loved one, watch a funny video, take a nap or watch television. You could also try getting your mind off things by practising breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga,” says Dr Engeln.

“Once a new activity has your full attention, the obsessive thoughts you are having may finally subside,” she adds.