Stress & Anxiety

ADHD and Obsessive Thoughts: How to Stop the Endless Analysis

How to turn your mind off and ease anxiety.

An adult ADHD woman who can't stop obsessing over negative thoughts and questions
An adult ADHD woman who can't stop obsessing over negative thoughts and endless questions

Obsessing and ruminating are often part of living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). No matter how hard you try to ignore them, those negative thoughts just keep coming back, replaying themselves in an infinite loop. You know it’s not healthy, but you can’t seem to stop yourself.

It makes sense. As adults with ADHD, we’re so often burned by our own impulsivity that we sometimes go to the opposite extreme and micro-analyze. Our minds are always on, often running laps around the same track. So it’s no wonder you find yourself drawn to thoughts of your beloved and what he or she is up to when you’re not around.

What you resist persists. The more you try to ignore these thoughts, the more persistent they become. Like many things related to ADHD, “just try harder” isn’t a solution. Here are some ideas that might work better:

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Journal. Putting those thoughts down on paper gives them a home, another place they can stick besides your brain. Also, the writing process puts you closer in touch with subconscious beliefs that may be the root of your concerns.

Focus on something outside of your mind. In other words, distract yourself by staying busy. Do something intense that you’re naturally drawn to ⁠— for example, playing a video game or mountain biking. You want it to be something that will captivate 100 percent of your attention. Doing something out in nature is particularly effective.

Write down the exact opposite of your concern and visualize it. For example, you might write, She’s at the mall, shopping for my birthday gift. Then play out that scene in your mind.

Change your thinking. Related to the above, decide in advance how you would like to view the situation. Then, whenever you find your thoughts turning negative, consciously replace them with the positive scenario.

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Repeat a mantra. Think of a short, comforting phrase and repeat it over and over. Say it out loud. For example, “He is worthy of my trust,” or “I am a prize.” Successful mantras are both positive and believable. There’s no room for ruminations if you’re focused on your mantra.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that your ruminations are not solely related to ADHD. The suggestions above assume that there are no underlying psychological issues, like childhood abandonment or abuse, or a painful past relationship. You’ll need to resolve these issues before you can move on. A therapist or other qualified mental-health professional can help.

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