Have you ever found yourself lost in thought about someone?
It’s normal to think a lot about someone we like, someone with romantic potential, or someone we’ve connected with in the past, but sometimes those thoughts become obsessive.
Suppose your constant thoughts about someone are beginning to bother you because they’re getting in the way of your daily life, like your job, a new relationship, or your ability to sleep at night. In that case, you may be wondering how to stop these persistent thoughts altogether.
If this describes your experience, this article is for you.
Below we’ll explore why it’s sometimes so hard to stop thinking about someone, followed by what you can do to help yourself to reduce the thoughts and eventually release them all together.
Why can’t I stop thinking about someone?
Below you’ll find some potential reasons why you can’t get this person out of your mind. If you find any of the reasons below true for you, don’t worry. All of us are prone to persistent and sometimes intrusive thoughts; such is human nature.
Having such thoughts is not a sign that you’re a bad or weak person. Still, what matters most is how we respond to them.
Let’s explore the potential reasons and find out later how you can keep your mental health in check and not allow these thoughts to affect you negatively.
1. You’re infatuated with them
It’s normal for a new romantic partner to take up space in your mind. The excitement of a new romance can evoke feelings of love, infatuation, and a desire to receive and receive affection.
In the early days of a new romantic relationship, we often lose focus and smile when we think about that new person. We may think about them before we fall asleep or in the morning when we wake up and look forward to seeing them again.
All these feelings are normal and are not usually a cause for concern.
However, sometimes we become so infatuated with a person that we literally can’t stop thinking about them.
Infatuation is a psychological term for projecting romantic feelings onto a person.
What begins as pleasant thoughts about the wonderful person we’ve met can gradually shift into obsession, jealousy, and harmful actions.
We become obsessive, far beyond what we’d consider ‘normal.’
It’s not entirely your fault if you’ve become infatuated – society and the media we consume feed us an idea that love and romance should be obsessive and all-consuming.
Many of us have been conditioned to view life this way, but we experience much unnecessary suffering as a result.
2. You weren’t ready for a break-up
We can also become obsessive about an ex, whereby they led a break-up that perhaps we weren’t ready for.
Break-ups can be heartbreaking and emotionally taxing, and it’s often the case that one partner suffers more than the other.
If you’re the one that was broken up with, then it’s understandable that you spend a lot of time thinking about them.
Unlike the thoughts that typically follow infatuation for a new romantic partner, ideas about an ex tend to take a more negative spin.
Usually, these thoughts are colored with a sense of regret for not having done things ‘better’ or ‘different’ in the relationship and can lead to harsh self-criticism and constant ‘what-if’ thinking.
This is one of the more destructive types of infatuation because it’s often the case that a person feels like they’re dealing with these thoughts on their own, whereby some conclusion and closure are sought but not attained.
3. Insecure attachment
Your attachment style, the way you learned to relate to others in romantic relationships based on your early childhood experiences, can be why you’re constantly thinking about someone.
Renowned psychologists John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth observed through their research that children develop one of three primary attachment styles – secure, insecure, and disorganized.
Secure attachment defines an attitude toward relationships where you feel secure in your relationship, able to experience closeness and distance from your partner without much worry.
When your attachment style is insecure, you may seek validation from that partner and experience anxiety and obsessive thoughts when there is a distance in the relationship. In an insecure attachment style, distance from your partner may evoke a sense of fear around rejection or abandonment.
Your obsessive thoughts about the person stem from the belief that thinking so much keeps them close. The reality is that such obsessive thoughts are often a relationship deterrent, a painful paradox for the insecurely attached.
4. Scarcity mindset
If you’ve been single for a while and unsuccessful in finding a romantic partner, you may cling to the one you eventually find.
This relates to a scarcity mindset, where you believe you’re lacking in love and affection. The scarcity mindset drives you to hold on to that new person dearly, whereby your constant thoughts about them help you feel close to them.
You believe that by keeping this person in your thoughts at all times, you’ll manage to secure their physical presence. Understand that such thinking is fear-based and control-based and is likely to push the person away to a noticeable or more subtle degree.
The opposite of a scarcity mindset is an abundance mindset. In such a perspective, you believe that you already have everything you need, and if you don’t have it in your immediate life, it’s there for you somewhere, even if not right now.
You believe that you are worthy of love and the attention of a romantic partner, so when that love and attention comes, you’re not so surprised.
You also don’t feel the need to cling to it. You understand that it may come and go, but you know you are worthy of allowing for that uncertainty.
5. Obsessive love disorder
Obsessive love disorder (OLD) is not a diagnosable condition, so that you won’t find it in the DSM-V. Still, it’s something that many people experience, and something can deteriorate your well-being when left unchecked.
Symptoms of this ‘disorder’ include:
- Intense feelings of attraction to a person
- Frequent obsessive thoughts about the person
- Believing this is the ‘only person for you’
- Deep and overwhelming jealousy when that person talks to others with romantic potential
- Frequently reaching out to that person even when they don’t want you to
Obsessive love disorder can be exhausting and damaging to your mental health. It also deteriorates the quality of the relationship you have with that person.
Fortunately, there are ways to curb your obsession and free yourself from persistent and intrusive thoughts.
How to stop thinking about someone
It may take some time to curb your obsessive thoughts about this person but have patience. There may be some underlying personal issues involved in your situation that need to be addressed.
Below we’ve included some tips and advice to help you better understand your feelings and call in psychological and emotional support to help you let go of your sticky thoughts.
1. Investigate the roots of your obsession
There are very few worries and mental health struggles that don’t benefit from diligent self-investigation.
Journaling and writing for self-discovery are excellent means of learning about what’s going on in our minds and can lead to profound insights that can shift your entire perspective on your situation.
Take some time to get comfortable, away from distractions and other people, and write. Ask yourself some questions to help you investigate why you can’t stop thinking about this person.
Consider the following prompts to help you start journaling, and try to be as radically honest with yourself as possible.
What does this person represent?
What is the difference between my life with this person and my life without a person?
How do I feel about this person? How do I feel around this person?
Have I felt this way about anyone else before? Has this thought pattern happened before? What did I learn that time that I can apply to this time?
Journaling is one of the most effective methods to gain insight into personal issues.
If you’ve never journaled before, it can feel strange to begin. Remember that you don’t need to show your writing to anyone – it’s for you and you alone to use as a tool for self-discovery.
2. Reduce exposure to the person
One way to get this person out of your mind is to reduce exposure to them.
For example, if you can’t stop thinking about your ex, it will be tough to stop if you keep seeing updates about their life on social media. As such, it’s wise to unfriend or unfollow the person to help you secure more peace of mind.
Even if you don’t want to unfollow them because you’d like to maintain the friendship, you can mute their stories or hide their posts from your timeline.
These are small steps to take in the face of obsessive thoughts, but they can make a huge difference. Reducing exposure to this person will make it much easier to get on with your day without thinking about them.
Of course, they say absence makes the heart grow fonder, so you may experience even more frequent thoughts about the person in the initial stages of reduced exposure.
Try to notice when your obsessive thoughts arise and consider what triggers them in this sensitive time.
There are unavoidable triggers, such as music you hear on the radio or a location you always pass that you both used to frequent. Still, by simply bringing attention to this trigger, you’ll begin to reduce their power over you.
3. Connect with friends and family
Isolation and disconnection from loved ones are some of the main reasons your obsessive thoughts persist. You may obsess over a love interest and often push away those close to you to free up time and space for that love interest in your life, even when said love interest is not around.
One effective way to reduce your obsession with this person is to re-establish that frayed connection with close friends and family members.
Learn to appreciate those in your life who are there for you outside of a romantic context. Remember what it’s like to experience platonic connections and the genuine sense of love that they can evoke.
4. Speak to a therapist
Again, it’s normal to keep thinking about someone you like or were once deeply connected with. Still, if your thoughts cross a line and become obsessive, it’s wise to seek support.
Obsessive thoughts can become intrusive and cause a lot of stress. That stress can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms or the onset of anxiety and depression, which can also evoke unhealthy coping behaviors.
A qualified mental health professional can give you informed professional advice and offer a range of psychotherapeutic tools to help you gain insight into your obsessive, intrusive thoughts and eventually curb them.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy and one of the most effective therapeutic modalities for identifying the thought patterns and core beliefs at the root of your obsession.
Thinking a lot about someone we like is just human nature.
However, when these thoughts cross the line into obsessive thinking, they can lead to low self-esteem and poor mental health.
It’s important to seek emotional support if your thoughts reduce your quality of life.
Understand that nobody is perfect, so take your idealization of this person as a sign that there may be something else in your mind.
It may seem like you’ll never be able to stop thinking about this person, but the truth is that with the right support and some diligent self-investigation, you can release these obsessive thoughts and liberate yourself from the pain they cause.