Obsession is a complex word. You might talk about being ‘obsessed’ with a new K-drama, but that’s not the same as being obsessed with a crush or a lover. You probably started reading this because the title seemed to offer you hope, which means you are perhaps in the throes of an unhealthy obsession. Are you constantly thinking about someone to the extent that everything else in your life has come to a grinding halt? And has that left you wondering what to do to stop obsessing over someone?
While being obsessed in love is definitely a cause for concern, you are not the first person to have experienced it. This is not to say that you can give yourself a free pass and keep going down the rabbit hole of this unhealthy behavior pattern, but just a reminder, that while unhealthy, obsessive thoughts about a person you love are not uncommon. And it’s possible to catch this tendency by its horns and rein it in.
That’s exactly what we’re here to help you with. Together we’ll figure how ways to stop obsessing over someone, with insights from counseling psychologist Kavita Panyam (Masters in Psychology and international affiliate with the American Psychological Association), who has been helping couples work through their relationship issues for over two decades.
What is Obsessive Love Disorder and what are its symptoms?
“I must get my soul back from you; I am killing my flesh without it.” – Sylvia Plath
Plath rightly captures the essence of obsessive love, and we can assure you, it’s not another hyperbolic poetic expression. As far-fetched as it may sound, this is how a person feels when they are a victim of Obsessive Love Disorder. For them, this obsession with a particular romantic partner or interest is equivalent to love. But there is a thin line between love and fixation. And that is an urge to win and have control over this person by hook or crook.
Let me explain. If you are in love with someone, you would want to see that person happy and accomplished even if that means letting them go. But with obsessive thought patterns comes a sense of possession, an extremity that leads to a highly dysfunctional relationship. And the situation becomes more messed up when you are obsessing over someone who doesn’t want you back because then it’s clear that you are unable to deal with rejection in love gracefully.
As you understand, this kind of unhealthy attachment can’t be very easy to live with. Obsessive thinking about someone or constantly trying to hold on to your object of affection, as if to keep them safe in a box so they can’t leave or betray you, can be mentally and physically exhausting. It’s just as suffocating for the person at the receiving end.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), Obsessive Love Disorder still doesn’t fall under the category of a mental health condition. Rather it can be labeled as a branch of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. It can manifest through the following symptoms of being obsessed in love:
- No respect for personal space and boundaries of the person you love
- Obsessing over someone not texting back and trying to contact them despite their reluctance
- Trying to control every aspect of their life – who they work with, whom they are meeting, how they are spending alone time
- Being overprotective and possessive about this person
- Stalking their social media accounts and trust issues in the relationship go hand-in-hand
- Constantly seeking validation and reassurance of their feelings for you
- Losing your sanity when it seems they are getting out of your clasp
Related Reading: 8 Ways We Stalk Our Exes
11 ways to overcome obsessive love
According to Kavita, there is a correlation between obsession and compulsion. She explains, “Obsession is when thoughts repeat themselves in your mind, while compulsion is the action we choose to take to ease the obsession.” This is when the warning signs of being obsessed with someone start becoming apparent.
Are you unable to give your loved one any personal space and end up stalking them relentlessly? Does it leave you wondering how to stop obsessing over someone on social media or in real life? Well, first of all, pat yourself on the back for acknowledging a problem.
However, that doesn’t necessarily ease your woes. Once your brain has acknowledged that you’re obsessed in love, it’s probably in a constant state of flux, trying to break this pattern without really understanding where it’s stemming. So, here are some tools and tips to stop obsessing over someone and hopefully regain your sanity:
1. See them for who they are
There are reasons we obsess over certain people. “Maybe you think that this person is really amazing and that losing them would cause you acute pain. Maybe they’re breadcrumbing you – sending out flirtatious but non-committal signals, but because you’re obsessed, you want to connect with them, or constantly ruminate on the connection,” says Kavita.
In that case, the best way to tame these obsessive thoughts is to see the person for who they really are. They probably have attractive qualities, which led to the obsession in the first place, but you have to try to see them as a whole person with flaws and faults. This might help you move on and bring back your sanity. “Don’t just think of the good parts, look at the whole package – the fights, the disagreements, the toxic traits, all of it,” Kavita suggests.
2. Laugh about this negative trait to defeat it
Humor puts things in perspective. If you find that you cannot hold a conversation without bringing up your obsession, learn to laugh at it. Remember, this is a slow and gradual process, so be patient with yourself. Laughter and humor will help put a little distance between you and your obsession.
Almost as though you’re a third person watching this obsession play out. Then, consciously make a decision to distance yourself from them in order to take care of yourself. This will help you stop obsessing over someone and move on from an infatuation that’s bordering on unhealthy.
Related Reading: 15 Clear Signs Your Crush Doesn’t Like You Back
3. You have to heal from your past trauma
You might be at a stage of life where you feel that if you don’t stick with this one person, you’ll never find anyone else or anyone better. Everyone around you is getting married or engaged and you are worried, “I will be the crazy cat lady who lives and dies alone”. Maybe you’re obsessed with someone who is not even officially your partner and now you need to get over someone you never had.
You are probably thinking, “I’ve been obsessed with this person for years. How do you stop thinking about someone who hurt you or get over someone who doesn’t want you?” These unwanted feelings and desperate need to survive by holding onto that one person is coming straight from your unhealed emotions. It’s the insecurities and the fear of being left alone that your ex-partners left you with. Perhaps, you need to work on letting go of the baggage of your past relationships to stop obsessing over someone in the present.
Kavita says, “Obsessive behavior often stems from a lack of self-alignment. You need to address your past trauma, or whatever it is that led you to this point. Ask yourself why you would stay in an abusive or non-existent relationship. The answer might lead further back than you think,” she adds.
4. Gather the willpower to put an end to it
Are you sitting and wondering, “Why am I obsessed with a guy who rejected me?” We say, “Stop it!” Stop obsessing over someone you can’t have, even if it takes blocking that person on social media or deliberately avoiding seeing them. It’s not going to be a cakewalk and you may need to exploit every last bit of your mental strength. But make it a point to distract yourself whenever these stubborn obsessive thoughts cloud your judgment and shift the focus to your own well-being instead.
Learn how to love yourself. Start a new hobby, or do something that you have always wanted to do and never got a chance to. It could be taking a solo trip, learning a new language, or riding that bike that you always dreamt of. Start doing the things that interest you or else your obsession will take over your life. These are great ways to get over someone who doesn’t want you.
5. Try to stay grounded
Live in the present. Thinking about your obsessive behavior all the time, repeating past events in your head, and wondering how the future might turn out won’t allow you to live in your present. Look at yourself in the mirror and get a reality check. Remind yourself of the personal goals and responsibilities that you are setting aside in the process of obsessing over someone. Kavita advises, “Don’t neglect yourself spiritually and emotionally. Nothing is lonelier than that, so keep your life up and going.”
6. Get out of the same loop and take a different path
“I’ve been obsessed with a guy for years. He broke up with me and never gave me a reason. The failed attempts to move on without closure have been eating me up from inside all these days. Even today, I check his social media accounts first thing in the morning, I try to purposely bump into him at parties – literally anything to get him back. Obsessing over someone who rejected you is soul-crushing”, says Blair, a young management professional who is still struggling to get over her college sweetheart.
If you are also stuck in a similar situation and the same thoughts are circling your mind, it’s time to let go and live your life. Go out for a walk in Central Park, grab a drink sometimes, or visit your favorite used bookstore in Brooklyn. If you don’t want to be alone with your thoughts, take a friend along. Have conversations about things other than your current obsession. Taking a small detour every day from the same old loop will help you completely avoid that path over time.
Related Reading: 12 Signs It’s Time To Stop Pursuing The Girl You Like And Back Off
7. The pedestal is yours
Considering yourself the most important person in your life and keeping yourself on the pedestal is exactly what you need to do at this moment. Our life is too short to remain consumed by the thoughts of a person who doesn’t even show similar interest or enthusiasm for us. Because if they did, this obsession won’t get a grip on you in the first place. The day you can tell yourself, “I am done living for someone else and from now on, it’s all about me,” half your problems will be solved.
Kavita says, “When a person or situation is not good for you, you realize you need to do something about it. When you put someone on a pedestal, you are giving them unconditional love, and maybe expecting the same in return. Remember, functional people don’t look for unconditional love. They say no, accept no as an answer, and let things go gracefully without drama or revenge.”
8. Their opinions don’t define you
Why do we obsess over certain people? If you’re seeing signs of an obsessed man or woman in yourself, this question is bound to weigh on your mind. Maybe they have a certain charm where everything that they say matters to you way more than it should. Sure, you care about what they think of you, but then living up to their desired expectations is a bit too much.
“Sometimes, your mind is stuck on the love bombing phase of the relationship, and you don’t realize when it tips over into emotional abuse,” warns Kavita. It’s possible that the other person could use this to their advantage. If they know that you get affected by their opinions, they may purposely say things to put you down and see how you would change based on that. Don’t fall prey to such manipulative games. Try to stop obsessing over someone who hurt you on purpose because you are not who they say you are.
9. Stop overthinking
Your thoughts are important and play a crucial role in your life, but as soon as they transcend into a spiral of overthinking, they can ruin relationships. Only you can have control over your thoughts and make valid choices about what you can and can’t control. Calmly sit and talk yourself out of these addictive thoughts to stop being obsessed in love. Remind yourself you have a life beyond this particular person.
“Remember, thoughts cannot be controlled, whether they are functional or dysfunctional. But, there is a difference between allowing a thought in and engaging with it. Lessen the intensity of the thought by not engaging with it. Wait for these thoughts to pass. Let it happen, don’t put life on hold,” advises Kavita.
Related Reading: 8 Subtle Signs Of Insecurity In A Relationship
10. Get yourself a strong support system
You need the company of your go-to people in times of crisis and happiness. But you need them more while dealing with a phase of obsession because they can offer you a neutral third-party perspective. They may even help you in your journey to stop obsessing over someone by offering you welcome distractions at times when you need them the most. Most of all, their love and care can be a reminder that you deserve so much better.
However, if the state of being obsessed in love is getting out of control and taking a serious toll on your mental health, you may need more than just the support of your loved ones. In situations like these, going into therapy to get to the root of this unhealthy pattern and gain control over it is strongly recommended. If, at any point, you need professional help, skilled and experienced counselors on Bonobology’s panel of experts are here for you.
11. Follow self-affirmative mantras
Self-affirmative mantras can help you focus on yourself and make yourself a priority over anyone else. Let your anger flow, but to stop feeding your obsession, use mantras like:
- I am awesome!
- I am happy and fun
- I am enough and sufficient for myself
Chant these, and if required, make some small changes in your life – using a different route to work, taking your dog to a different park for a walk, spontaneously going for a haircut/tattoo, etc. If you’re a creative person, turn this obsession into your muse and get something artistic out of it. Paint a beautiful picture, write that poem, or record an original song maybe.
“An obsession is like a child wanting to play with something sharp. You know it’s not good for you, but you still stubbornly want it. It has all the markings of a toxic relationship. You need therapy to be able to help yourself. Obsession and compulsion go together, so don’t engage with them, and let them fade away. It won’t happen overnight so be patient. Above all, don’t allow yourself to be abused or devalued before you can disengage,” Kavita concludes.
- A person with Obsessive Love Disorder can’t help themselves incessantly thinking about the object of their affection
- A sense of control and possession comes along with this obsession which makes it different from a healthy loving relationship
- Obsession in love stems from unhealed trauma, failed relationships in the past, or low self-esteem
- The best way to overcome these obsessive thoughts is to see the person as who they are instead of idolizing them as an epitome of perfection
- You have to stay more grounded, focus on your own purpose and life goals, and distract yourself with productive actions to stop overthinking
- Positive affirmations work wonders in retracting from Obsessive Love Disorder
It isn’t easy to learn that you are obsessed and after learning that, it’s more difficult to get out of that obsession. Try these tactics and let us know if they helped in the comments below. Stop obsessing over someone and start obsessing over yourself and that’s the only way to get yourself out of these all-consuming emotions.
The article was originally published in 2019 and has been updated in 2022.