Use Thought Stopping to get rid of negative thoughts

By David Joel Miller

Are your own thoughts causing you problems?

Thought Stopping

Thought Stopping
Photo courtesy of Flickr (jurvetson)

Negative emotions, depression, anxiety, and anger are often preceded by negative thoughts. If your own thoughts are making your life worse it is time to get those thoughts turned off.

Thought stopping is a tool you can use to quiet the mind and get those runaway thoughts to stop controlling you. When you find your mind occupied with an unhelpful thought, train yourself to mentally yell STOP or any other command you find effective in getting that thought to stop talking.

Arguing with the unhelpful thought or “disputing” this thought creates room for more helpful thoughts. If you have the thought “I never do anything right” tell yourself “Stop that, I do to do things right some of the time.”

Using this STOP command, especially with an added “correction” helps you reduce unhealthy thoughts and increase positive thoughts in 3 ways.

1. You train yourself to have fewer negative thoughts

Practice telling those unhelpful thoughts to stop and over time you will get fewer of them. The mentally yelling stop becomes a form of punishing the negative thoughts. Punishing the negative thoughts rather than beating yourself up for having them rewards you by having fewer negative thoughts.

The more you practice thought stopping the more positive you become and the healthier your mind becomes. Breaking entrenched habits takes many repetitions and thought stopping is something you can easily do many times a day.

2. Thought stopping distracts you from an unhelpful thought.

Stay focused on the unhelpful thought and it gets reinforced. The more you think that negative thought the more it becomes an automatic thought and eventually it may reach the level of a core belief.

Tell someone they are stupid often enough and they believe you. Tell yourself that you are stupid and eventually your mind will make mistakes to try to make this self-talk true.

Use as many methods as you can find to take the focus off those negative thoughts and you will interrupt their control over your mind.

3. Disputing that thought can turn a negative thought into a positive affirmation.

If yelling at them or distracting yourself from them does not get those negative thoughts out of your head try adding a tag on the end. Include an argument with this negative thought in every conversation and the unhelpful thought will start talking less.

Have a recurring thought that “I can’t take this?” Next time you hear that tape play, add on the disclaimer at the end. “Yes I can take this, I have handled tough situations before.”

The alcoholic or drug addict gets frequent thoughts from their brain – “I need a drink, I need to get high.” Recovering people have learned to tell themselves every time those thoughts come scratching around – “No I don’t need a drink or a fix.” “I am in recovery and can handle this clean and sober.”

The results for thought stopping?

Thought stopping has been shown to be effective about 70% of the time for phobias. The more unreasonable the fear or phobia the better thought stopping works. It is reported to be very helpful in coping with cravings in addiction or managing other urges.

Thought stopping has been less effective when the problem is obsessive-compulsive behaviors. For compulsive rituals, the successes rate for thought stopping is closer to 20%. Thought stopping is primarily meant for getting rid of negative or unhelpful thinking. For OCD behaviors something more complete like exposure and response prevention is recommended.

Exposure and response prevention is not recommended for addictions. Having an alcoholic sit in a bar and test themselves increases the risk of failing one more test and convincing themselves they will never get clean.

If you are unsure what will work best for your condition, try working with a professional or experienced peer person.

Do you have any default thoughts that are not helpful? Might thought stopping help you get those thoughts under control?

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books  

O.C.D. or Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder?

By David Joel Miller.

What is the difference between OCD and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder?

There are two different mental disorders that share the OCD designation. It seems odd that we have two disorders that share the OCD part of their labels. The way I read the DSM they are rather different disorders.

The result of this dual use of the OCD label is that the two conditions may be getting confused and that people with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder may not be getting diagnosed or treated the way they should be.

People with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder have high levels of anxiety and they have rituals they feel compelled to perform that relieve the anxiety.

Think of obsession as not being able to stop thinking about something, in the case of OCD this thing they can’t stop thinking about is usually connected to some perceived danger. This is beyond just being over-anxious about a real danger. Like PTSD there are images that keep popping into the head. Having these thoughts upsets the person. The person with OCD knows these are their own thoughts and that the thoughts are excessive.

The compulsive part has to do with the inability to withstand the thought and the need to do something to relieve the tension. These obsessions are not things like avoiding the alligator, which might keep you safe. They involve things like washing of hands over and over, praying for a long period of time repeating phrases or counting.

The description of OCD reminds me of impulse control disorders like gambling or addiction and has some similarities to over eating disorders.

OCD is a more generalized condition than what you might see in someone who has difficulty controlling only one obsession or compulsion as in an alcoholic who keeps thinking about drinking until the give in and drink. In OCD the compulsions don’t have that direct a relationship.

That is a very over brief description of OCD from the DSM-4-TR.

For more on OCD and its treatment, I would refer you to another site here on WordPress called ocdtalk.

How is OCD different from Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder?

This description of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder is taken from the proposal for the DSM-5 since it will become final very soon and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder is one of the personality disorders that the DSM-5 kept.

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder involves a SIGNIFICANT impairment in self-functioning. Someone with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder does not just have a few symptoms about one thing but that is the way they are all the time.

Someone with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder gets their self-worth, their sense of purpose in life from their work or productivity. They are compelled to do something all the time. They have overly high rigid standards and are “inflexible” about meeting these standards. This sounds like that old “black and white thinking” to me.

Someone with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder is overly moralistic or conscientious. As a result of these excessive standards, they may be unable to complete projects unless they can be done “correctly” or perfectly.

People with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder lack empathy for others and will put work or moral standards before relationships.

If you are not perfect the person with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder will not want you for a friend. If you think you are perfect then you may well have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder or another mental illness.

Other traits of a person with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder include rigid-compulsive perfectionism and negative “affect.” Meaning they are negative about everything all the time.

They person with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder is also likely to practice “perseveration” meaning they can’t let something go. They will keep trying to get something just right even after it no longer matters.

I get the picture here of someone who is very “puritanical.” I believe sitcoms call them “anal retentive.”

People with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder do not end up in treatment very often, at least not for the personality disorder, but they do drive others around them to therapy.

Did that explain the difference? Feel free to leave a comment. I always feel compelled to reply.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books