How to Break Free From Obsessive Thoughts After a Breakup

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When a relationship ends, it is common to feel confused and disappointed. You may even replay past interactions in your mind wondering what you could have done differently. This can lead to further frustration, discontentment and despair. When these thoughts become obsessive and interfere with your daily life or health, something has to change.

Don't Ask "What If?"

Some of the most unhealthy questions you can ask yourself begin with the phrase, "what if?” After a breakup, many people wonder what they could have done differently. "What if I hadn't called so much? Did I overwhelm him?" "What if I were more attractive? Would he like me then?" These kinds of questions can create anxiety and excessive overanalyzing. In order to discontinue obsessive thought patterns, stop asking "what if?”

Stay Away From Triggers

Remember that restaurant you and your ex loved? Do you find yourself driving by hoping you'll catch a glimpse of him? Alternatively, what about the song that always reminded you of him? Do you still listen to it on the drive to work? These are examples of triggers that can stir up emotions and cause you to ruminate about your ex. Until you have grieved and accepted the break up, stay away things that remind you of him.

Fantasies Feed the Problem

In the 2007 CNN article, "Love Addiction - How to Break It," love-addiction teacher Susan Peabody, describes how fantasizing about the relationship creates a feedback loop in the brain that can become addictive. If you daydream about the good times or consistently think about the way you wish the relationship had ended, you are not living in the reality of what exists now. Seek the help of family, friends or a professional to speak truth into your life and help pull you out of this addictive cycle.

Release, Distract and Stop!

Aside from talking to others, writing in a journal is one way to make sense of confusing and emotionally driven thoughts. Exercising, watching movies, volunteering and other forms of sublimation can all provide a healthy distraction. Thought stopping is a technique described by Robert London, M.D., in his 2010 Psychology Today article, "Taming Obsessive Thoughts.” Used in Cognitive-Behaviorial Therapy, it can be done by actually saying "stop" during a period of over-thinking and bring you back into the present.

Find Yourself Again

As relationships progress, many couples begin to finish one another's sentences, blend friend groups and consider themselves more of a pair than individuals. This "us" mentality can make it difficult to be independent if the relationship ends. While you may desperately wish that things could have stayed the same, getting to know yourself again will not only provide a distraction from thinking about the past, but also increase your confidence and excitement about the future.