Unwanted thoughts can make
you feel anxious or depressed. They may keep you from enjoying your
A technique called thought-stopping can help you stop
Thought-stopping is a way
to get rid of unwanted thoughts. You may dwell or obsess on thoughts that make
you worry, feel sad, or feel bad about yourself. Research shows that
thought-stopping works. It can change the way you think. In thought-stopping,
you focus on the unwanted thought and then use a technique to stop it.
When you practice thought-stopping, the unwanted thought occurs less
often. Over time, the thought will be easier to ignore or may not occur at all.
In some cases, the thoughts may be worries. For example, you may worry a lot
about your health or the health of a family member. Or you may think over and
over about a bad grade in school or a comment by a supervisor at work.
Thought-stopping can help you deal with these thoughts.
work on thought-stopping on your own or with a counselor or therapist.
Thought-stopping can help you to not worry so
Thought-stopping can help you to not worry so
much. You learn how to stop a thought that bothers you and then think about
You need to see a counselor or a therapist to practice
You don't need to see a counselor or a
therapist to practice thought-stopping. You can try it on your own or as part
You don't need to see a counselor or therapist
to practice thought-stopping. You can try it on your own or as part of
Continue to Why?
that when you change what you think, you can change your mood. Thought-stopping
is easy to learn, and it can help you feel better. Negative, unwanted thoughts
can lead to
depression. They can keep you from sleeping well. And
they can make it hard for you to work and enjoy your life.
Thought-stopping also can help if you already have anxiety or depression.
It's one way to take an active role in your treatment. You can prevent some of
the thoughts that make you anxious or depressed.
You can learn to
do thought-stopping anywhere, so it can help you at work or at home. It's also
easy to learn. But it does take some practice.
In some cases, you
may need more help to stop thoughts that worry you or make you feel bad. Some
thoughts or behaviors can't be handled by thought-stopping alone. Seek the help
of your doctor or a licensed therapist or counselor if you can't stop unwanted
thoughts on your own.
Thought-stopping is an easy way to change how you
The technique to stop unwanted thoughts is easy
to learn. But it will take practice to make it work.
Continue to How?
To stop unwanted
thoughts, you focus on the thought and then learn to say "Stop" to end the
thought. At first, you will shout "Stop!" out loud. Then you will learn to say
it in your mind so that you can use this technique anywhere. Here's how to get
You can change how you
This new image or idea is not the same thing as
replacing a negative thought with a helpful thought that is related to it. For
more information on that method, see the topic
Stop Negative Thoughts: Choosing a Healthier Way of Thinking.
Here's an example of
how thought-stopping might work:
You're worried about a
presentation you are giving at work later in the day. You're prepared. You know
you're ready. But you can't stop worrying about it. You imagine making a
When you start to think of yourself stumbling over
words, you say "Stop" quietly in your mind. You get up and move around, or you
snap your rubber band as you say "Stop." Then you think of something pleasant
to take your mind off the thought—such as a trip you are planning to take or a
movie you saw recently that made you laugh.
To stop unwanted thoughts, you need to concentrate on
To stop unwanted thoughts, you DO have to
concentrate on them. You practice focusing on the thought you want to stop, and
then you use cues such as saying "Stop" and snapping a rubber band on your
wrist to stop yourself from thinking about it.
At first, it's best to practice stopping the thought
that bothers you the most.
At first, it's best to practice stopping the
thought that bothers you the LEAST. This will help you learn how to do
thought-stopping. When you can stop the smaller worries, you will be more
likely to stop the thoughts that bother you the most.
Continue to Where?
Now that you have read this
information, you are ready to practice stopping unwanted thoughts.
Thought-stopping can be used with other
cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques. You can
learn to notice negative thoughts and then replace them with helpful
For more information, see:
Return to topic:
Other Works Consulted
Hart SL, Hart TA (2010). The future of cognitive behavioral interventions within behavioral medicine. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 24(4): 344–353.
Layous K et al. (2011). Delivering happiness: Translating positive psychology intervention research for treating major and minor depressive disorders. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 17(8): 675–683.
Lightsey OR, et al. (2012). Can positive thinking reduce negative affect? A test of potential mediating mechanisms. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 26(1): 71–88.
McKay M, et al. (2011). Changing patterns of limited thinking. In Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life, 4th ed., pp. 27–45. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
McKay M, et al. (2011). Coping with panic. In Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life, 4th ed., pp. 85–104. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
McKay M, et al. (2011). Uncovering automatic thoughts. In Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life, 4th ed., pp. 15–25. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
Newman CF, Beck AT (2009). Cognitive therapy. In BJ Sadock et al., eds., Kaplan and Sadock's Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 9th ed., vol 2., pp. 2857–2873. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
August 3, 2012
Catherine D. Serio, PhD - Behavioral Health
& Sue Barton, PhD, PsyD - Behavioral Health
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