Thought Stopping is a common technique used to help stop or control repetitive, obstructive or obsessive patterns of thinking that keep intruding into people’s minds.
Assessment (Signs and Symptoms)
Signs and symptoms include lack of concentration where people seem to drift or disappear into their own thoughts, difficulty sleeping, worried, upset, stressed, raised levels of anxiety, fear, have panic attacks, feel wound up, annoyed and possibly short tempered.
Negative patterns of thinking can be caused by relationship difficulties, feelings of jealousy, experiencing a disturbing event, being a victim of crime, car accidents, being diagnosed with a serious medical condition, post-traumatic stress. It can also stem from past emotional or psychological experiences where certain negative personal feeling have formed into beliefs about oneself such as believing they are bad or not worthy, etc which causes negative self-talk.
The idea is that people are helped to become aware of these intruding thoughts and be given a way of dealing with them rather than just letting them continuously swirling around in their heads.
1 The first stage is to become aware of negative thoughts and the person is encouraged to consciously choose to stop thinking those thoughts.
2 Say “Stop!” when experiencing recurring thoughts.
It can be difficult to stop thinking about a really upsetting experience as they can overwhelming this technique. Gradually, after a period of adjustment, the impact will fade and the technique will become more effective.
3 Stop and Replace
One way to stop negative thoughts is to replace them with more peaceful or calming thoughts. (See Positive Thinking). Tell yourself a story and describe it in detail. Count backwards from 100 while visualising the numbers. Practice deep breathing exercises, Use relaxation techniques.
Some people put an elastic band around their wrist which they prang against their skin when they think negative thoughts. The theory behind the idea is that you can’t think about pain and negative thoughts at the same time. It also builds up an association between the unpleasant feeling of pain and negative thinking.
4 It is inevitable that your mind will drift back to thinking negatively again and again but just return to the first stage and keep repeating the process.
This technique gives people a sense of control, it breaks the habit, it reduces anxiety and stress, helps to cognitively restructure thinking, provides a way to solve a problem and facilitates sleep. Sometimes deep-seated emotional or psychological patterns of negative thinking may require a different approach such as counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help understand where the negative thoughts are coming from.