By Kat Lloyd
While modern technology has its many merits, it doesn’t always mix well with mental health. Unlimited access to other people’s lives allows the obsessive mind to explore new dimensions of delusions. It is easier to obsess over a person or idealize them when their information and photos are displayed right in front of you.
Women for centuries have been made to feel insane, or diagnosed with hysteria when expressing themselves – but when does new relationship energy and excitement cross the line into obsession? And how do you handle it?
Like most people, I lack any semblance of impulse control when it comes to social media-stalking. I know it’s pretty common to deep-dive into a crushes’ feed, but for me, it’s way more than a simple indulgence of curiosity; I have OCD that’s triggered when I’m feeling vulnerable (a.k.a when I’m entering a new relationship). Sure, everyone cyber-stalks, but I don’t think everyone allows their work and friendships to be sacrificed for a person that won’t call back. I got to the point where I ended up pleading with my therapist for advice on how to deter my focus and date without sacrificing my mental health, and she gave me advice that would save my life: she introduced me to CBT.
For me as a staunch femme, it has been difficult to dictate what is compulsive behavior, and what is just the stigma of being a modern woman. Not the worst thing in the world, but for me, it is more than a simple indulgence of curiosity. People constantly excuse my obsessive behavior when I’m infatuated, because it’s fairly common. Meanwhile my thoughts terrorize my mind. Sure, everyone cyber-stalks, but I don’t think everyone allows their work and friendships to be sacrificed for a person that won’t call back. Some people are awful, toxic, and can near drive a person to insanity, but that doesn’t take away from the mania. I was pleading with my therapist on how to deter my focus and she gave me advice that would save my life: she introduced me to CBT.
What is CBT?
CBT is cognitive behavioral therapy (or cock and ball torture, depending on who you ask). It is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps patients understand the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviors. CBT is commonly used to treat a wide range of disorders including phobias, addictions, depression, and anxiety.
Before I had my meds regulated, which assisted my OCD, this is what helped. I was hit really hard last summer with feelings for the owner of my neighborhood record store. He told me he loved Madonna, and we watched Selena on our first date, then we had sex. No easier way to make me fall in love! He was great at first, but turned out to be a gas-lighting nutcase. I lurked his Instagram, I dug for info, and I would think about him all day. Through my incessant social media viewings, I knew where he was at most times and I knew who his friends were. The thoughts of failure and need to control what I could not caused severe anxiety. I would over-text him for reassurance, then back track trying to not look needy, thus texting more. Then I would wallow knowing I just made myself look crazy. It was draining. I eventually dropped him when I found out about his secret girlfriend in Minnesota, but assholery or not, the OCD persisted.
Write It All Down.
If you are indeed diagnosed with anxiety or OCD, it is best to work with your mental health counselor to find the correct strategy in dealing with your issues. Overall, there are several kinds of cognitive distortions that most people experience whether it be over-generalization, polarized thinking or emotional reasoning. It is quite difficult to recognize these patterns but when you start obsessing, but the secret for me to overcome my obsessive thoughts and behavior was simple: I wrote it all down. At the end of the day read them and start to see patterns in your behavior.
I break my written notes down into sections:
Write Down Your Invasive Thoughts
This is where you write down whatever is bothering you. Even if the thought is as simple as, “he didn’t text me back,” write it down. If this thought is not fleeting and persists, you have to open it up and really think about why it keeps coming back.
Write Down Your Negative Core Beliefs
If you can think of any negative feelings you think about yourself, write them here. This will help establish why you are exhibiting behaviors you don’t enjoy.
List Your Emotions
Really break down how you are feeling when these thoughts come. Think beyond happy and sad. Include your physical reactions to the emotions.
What are the Positive Alternatives?
Flip any negative beliefs about yourself to positive, and attempt to execute this. It sounds cheesy, but positive affirmations do help!
Remind Yourself What You Can Control and What You Can’t
Here I write down things that I can control, like my behavior, and what I cannot, someone else’s behavior. Always remember that you are driving the bus, and have the power to act in a rational manner.
Not everyone wants to carry a notebook around and write down every obsessive thought. However writing down your core beliefs really assists with obsessive behavior. Once you get down to the reason you’re obsessing, you might also realize that you’re pining over a person who is not worth it. I always do. Most of the time we feel like we’re going crazy because we’re unconsciously choosing partners who treat us poorly. The old low self-esteem tricks. In a healthy relationship, even in its infancy, you should know where you stand with someone because there is clear communication. So try not to beat yourself up too much, a good partner will not leave you clueless and out of sorts. Taking care of your mental health is essential, so if you’re feeling unstable, perhaps this will help you as it did me.
Kat Lloyd is a writer, performer, and a cultural critic residing in Brooklyn. She has been featured in BUST, Real Simple, and on The Brian Lehrer Show. Additionally she had hosted a podcast, Beat Face Radio, which showcased NYC personalities, artists, and drag superstars.