Feb 2016: Relationships

A Realistic Guide To Coping With An Obsessive Personality

Having an addictive personality is a blessing and a curse; it’s like having a super power that can be used for good and evil, except the only person that really benefits or suffers is you. Here’s some examples of how having an obsessive personality can work in opposing directions:

Person A

Hey, remember that conversation we had ten years ago? I know I do.
No sorry guys, these five drinks are all for me. I don’t care if I’ve already ten, I want these too.
I just ate a loaf of bread in one sitting, whoops.
What did she mean by that comment? You know, the one from ten years ago?
I’ve got my first piercing! How about snake bites? I’ll get angel bites after that. How about an eyebrow piercing? What about my nose?
Let’s stay in bed and have sex all weekend – who cares about my friend’s birthday party?
I can’t stop thinking about how futile life is.
I’ve never been so unhappy in my life.

Person B

I’ve been to the gym every day this week, one day I even went twice. I feel amazing.
I wrote three articles today for my website, and scheduled about fifty tweets.
Let me just go over this one more time to make sure there are no punctuation errors. It’s got to be perfect, after all.
I’ve never been so in love with somebody as I am with you right now. I wrote you a five page love letter and bought you your favourite things.
This is the best film I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Let me look into more of this person’s work.
I read this book in a single day. I looked up every single word I didn’t know and now I feel like Stephen Fry.
I applied for fifteen jobs today.
I’ve never been so happy in my life.

After recently reading a book about addiction, it pointed out that regardless of the direction, a person with an addictive personality will always defer facing their underlying problems by becoming obsessed with something else; something that gives them a temporary high or simply helps them cope. The only real solution is a shitload of therapy, but what happens when you’re unemployed, or a working class person who can’t afford a week in the Priory? The best you’ll get is local counselling, and don’t forget the waiting list. Unless you’re a suicide risk, you’re not likely going to be a priority, and if you’re coping okay on the surface with your obsessive personality then you might convince yourself that you don’t really need it.

But coping with this kind of personality is more difficult than most people realise. So how do you cope, really? I go through stages of highs and lows where I’m either Person A or Person B, although obviously the above examples are exaggerated and not mutually exclusive. Being a gym freak/health nut can be better for you than drinking heavily, but it can also lead to obsessive eating disorders, and boy have I been there. You can also spend every waking minute at the gym yet obsess over death – it’s not as clear cut as the above suggests. Some people can naturally find a balance, but more often than not it’s a constant battle.

Regardless, without facing the underlying problems head on we will probably have to try harder than your average Joe in order to stay in control, so here is my realistic guide to managing an obsessive personality. I’m no therapist, but I’ve dealt with obsession my entire life, and these tips are the only things that really work for me.

Choose your poison wisely.
Let’s be honest, it’s better to be obsessed with work than your own mortality. It’s hard to change focus but when you know your obsession is hurting you and others around you, it’s time to change your perspective.

Test yourself – publicly.
Are you trying to cut down on alcohol? Tell everyone and ask them to help you; you could even post about it on social media. People will support you, and if you talk about it then others will know when or if start slipping on your goals. Making yourself accountable to more than one person will give you more of a reason to keep something up.

Set personal targets.
Do you need to cut down on caffeine? Tell yourself you’ll only have a maximum of two stimulant-based drinks a day and get obsessed with sticking to these targets, rather than the coffee. If there’s one thing people with obsessive personalities have, it’s willpower. Trick yo’ obsessive ass into helping yourself.

Keep busy.
You probably obsess over things when you’re bored or inactive. If you’re doing something – working, watching a show or spending time with friends – then you’re less likely to have time for a negative spiral of intruding thoughts. I’ve found that spending time with people is the best medicine for this so get socialising whenever you can.

Remind yourself it’s only temporary.
This is massively helpful. When you feel like the world is ending because of a snide comment or you have an overwhelming urge to listen to the same song over and over again but it’s driving you crazy, you’ve got to tell yourself it’s only a fleeting obsession. You of all people know that these strong reactions pass, and when they do you know that you’ll be able to feel great again – because that’s the catch 22 of being this way. The extreme lows are matched by extreme highs, so you only need to remind yourself that those are just around the corner.  Time heals all wounds, so lick them quickly to minimise damage.

Things could be worse.
I was feeling shit about being jobless recently, and I whinged to my sister after obsessively working myself up about it for a good six hours during my daily job hunt. She simply replied: “You could be homeless. It could always be worse.” The somewhat simple yet sagacious comment struck me in the face like a frying pan. I’ve got it good, comparatively. Things may not be ideal right now, but shit – it could always be worse. When you’re in a funk, you tend to focus on how bad everything is. Take a step back from the situation and look at your life from an objective point of view. Letting the positives in might suddenly make you feel better.

You are in control.
Although it doesn’t feel like it, you are – always. Only you can change the things you obsess over and you know exactly when it feels like a problem. It may be difficult, you may not want to change certain things but when the negatives of some habit or obsession start outweighing the positives, that’s when you’ve got to take the reigns and be proactive. Nothing is impossible, and your ability to run yourself down works equally as well in the opposite direction.

Give other people a break.
Not everyone else’s brain works like yours, so when people make a comment, they probably have no idea how much you will obsess over it. Over-analysis is a defining factor of obsession, so remember that most of the time other people don’t intend to make you feel the way you do.

Unless you’re able to take on your obsessive personality altogether, coping mechanisms are all we’ve got. Make your personality work for you, and remember that it can be harnessed to make good things happen just as powerfully as it can make you feel like crap.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to read this through a thousand times to make sure it’s sub-edited to perfection.

– Katherine Hockley

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