How to Break an Obsession

Know It Will Pass

I can do anything for a minute. Most things for an hour. A considerable amount for a day or two or three. Most of my intrusive thoughts—the intense phase, anyway—have a life span of two or three days. I find the obsessions much more manageable when I compare them to the cravings for alcohol I experienced in my first years of sobriety. They came with intensity and then they left. All I had to do was to bear with them for 24 hours and refrain from doing anything stupid. Then my brain would be mine again. Your stuck thoughts are not permanent. They will be gone soon enough.

9 Ways to Let Go of Obsessions | Everyday Health

Psychological Payoffs

Obsessive interests can be fueled by various psychological payoffs. These include providing:

Distraction from the news

Distraction from aspects of life that stress you out (e.g., challenging work tasks or other types of “adulting”)

Relief from loneliness without requiring you to be social (e.g., via lurking)

Distraction from relationship difficulties (e.g., aspects of others’ behavior that frustrate you and a sense of powerlessness to change those)

A sense of unconditional acceptance

A singular focus that distracts you from messy self-questioning about how you derive a sense of meaning in your life

A way to hide an aspect of yourself. If all the talk is about one topic, then a problem aspect of your behavior may not come up or be seen (e.g., you can hide your alcohol use in a fan community, but not in your regular life).

How to Break an Obsession | Psychology Today