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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How can I stop thinking morbid thoughts?

    For the past few months I keep thinking that something awful, usually death, is going to happen to my fiance or son and it's now starting to make me feel quite anxious and panic about what I would do if it happened. I am going through a lot of stress at the moment - moving house, moving in with my fiance (he works away every 2 weeks and flies twice a month), resigned from my job, and also experiencing his problems with lawyers and a psychotic ex wife! My Dad died 2 years ago of mesiotheloma and had a very painful and slow last couple of months before he died. I keep thinking about euthanasia and how I could do it if I ever got so ill.
    How do I stop these depressing thoughts please?!
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1

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    66

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    Dr Paul McQueen

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    It is not uncommon for people to experience intrusive, unwanted and distressing thoughts. Usually, though, such thoughts are fleeting and only occasional. However, for someone who is under a lot of stress, such as you describe, there can be both an increased frequency of negative thoughts and amplification of the impact of those thoughts. If you weren't under stress you would be less likely to pay attention to these thoughts or be bothered by them.

    Paradoxically, the harder we try to stop thinking about something, the more it will tend to demand our attention. So, as strange as it sounds, the first step to being rid of such thoughts is allowing them to be there and not telling yourself you need to make them go away.

    The second step is to consider how these thoughts influence your behaviour. Worrying that something terrible could happen to someone we care about will naturally motivate us to try to do something to prevent that risk. Where the risk is real, that is a good thing - but if there is no good reason for worry - there is no real risk - then the things we will be likely to do to feel better tend to only strengthen the fear that something bad could happen. If you have urges to repeatedly check on your loved ones, or to take excessive steps to try to protect them, it is best to resist these urges because they will only make your worry worse and leave you thinking morbid thoughts more and more.

    Finally, make sure within the stress in your life that you are taking time for yourself - try to prioritise making opportunities to relax and enjoy life. Being physically active (exercising) is a great way of relieving stress and keeping our minds, not just our bodies, in top shape.

  • 32

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    My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    The concept of mindfulness (which my clinical psychologist introduced me to) might help you.

    Essentially mindfulness is learning to notice, without judging, your thoughts as they come and they go, accepting that they are just thoughts - they are not *you*.

    A specific mindfulness exercise that I was taught is this:

    (1) Sit quietly, eyes closed

    (2) Visualise, as vividly as possible, a stream with leaves floating down it.

    (3) Visualise putting each of your unhelpful thoughts onto a leaf.

    (4) Watch, without judging, each leaf and thought floating down the stream and out of your awareness.

    Maybe something along those lines might help you?

  • 20

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    Sherri Mulconry

    Hypnotherapist

    I combine Hypnotherapy, Coaching and Counselling and offer programs to help you release the automatic negative thoughts and beliefs that are holding you back from … View Profile

    Thinking negative or morbid thoughts can become a habit. The best way to break that habit is to become aware as soon as a morbid thought comes into your mind. Say the word STOP to yourself and then quickly replace the negative thought with a more positive thought or affirmation. The more you practice this, the easier it will become and you will find that you have less of the negative thoughts and more of the positive ones. You can also transport yourself, in your mind, to a ‘special place’ i.e. to bring up an image of a lovely, happy, stress free place like a desserted beach or countryside. Start to think about the things that you would like to have in your life rather than the things you don't want. Set small positive goals and focus on making them come to fruition. Hypnotherapy is a an effective way to help you replace negative messages with more positive ones. 

  • 1

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    18

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    Dr Paul McQueen

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    I would like to briefly mention that while the “STOP” method described by Sherri Melconry above is found useful by some people, the evidence of research suggests that for many people it can actually make the problem worse. A good summary of this paradox is given by researcher Jeremy Dean, here: http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/05/why-thought-suppression-is-counter-productive.php

  • 5

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    Kristen Ross

    Counsellor, Kinesiologist

    Kristen Ross is a qualified Kinesiologist, Counsellor and Sports Therapist.Affinity Wellness is her holistic wellness practice offering a holistic wellness experience by focusing on all … View Profile

    It sounds as though some of the stress you have experienced in the recent past has been a trigger for these thoughts to occur. 
    There are a number of pathways you can take to reduce the severity and frequency of these thought, it's about finding what's right for you. 
    Mindfulness practice (meditation) is a great way to take your focus out of the future or past events. I would also add that the practice of gratitude can be very helpful. 
    You might want to look into some cognitive based therapies to help you become more aware of the triggers for these thoughts and how the actual thought process occurs, counselling and psychology can be beneficial in this way. 
    You may also want to work with the subconcious triggers for these thoughts through therapies such as hypnosis or kinesiology
    In any case I would recommend seeking advice from a professional trained in these areas to help put you on the right path. 

  • 12

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    Ramona Singh

    Counsellor, Psychotherapist

    Life often presents us with challenging situations.Despite our best efforts, we don’t always find ways of resolving them.We might ask family or friends for advice. … View Profile

    One of the most effective ways of stopping such depressing thoughts is to talk them through with someone who will listen without judgement, explore their origin and meaning for you, how they are affecting your life, and help you reframe their place in how you see the world.

    You suffered a great loss with the death of your father, and to watch him die in pain must have been incredibly difficult.  Rather than consider it morbid and depressing, I think it's very realistic of you to contemplate euthanasia if you were ever in a similar position. 

    In our culture, the contemplation of death is often considered morbid.  But realistically, the only certain thing in our life is that we are going to die, so to spend time considering this, especially when we have just experienced the death of someone close to us is, in my clinical and personal experience, a very real thing to do.  To judge it as morbid or dysfunctional depends on how you personally view it, and how it affects your ability to live your daily life.

    When we have just lost a person whom we love, our fear of losing other people in our life can be increased, which might explain your fear of death for your son and fiance.  Add to that the end of your job, the end of living in the place you lived before (more losses) and the added stress of dealing with lawyers and an ex-wife, and it would be a miracle if you were able to function without some dark thoughts occupying your mind.

    My recommendation for you would be to find a counsellor who can help you talk through and unravel these intertwining factors which are making your life so challenging at the moment.

    I wish you well…

    Ramona

  • 1

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    Dr Will Pascoe

    HealthShare Member

    Hello.
    This advice from Dr Easterbrook-Smith's reply is most valuable, “Essentially mindfulness is learning to notice, without judging, your thoughts as they come and they go, accepting that they are just thoughts - they are not *you*.”

    We do not control the arising of thoughts in our brains, they just rise. And they are thoughts, just thoughts. The thoughts are not you. In deep sleep there are no thoughts, nothing, not even thought of “I”. And yet on waking you are aware almost immediately that “I” am here and nothing terrible happened without the thoughts. The thoughts are not you. With the thoughts or without the thoughts you are still you, unchanging.

    The thoughts have no power of their own. They arise in your brain, uninvited and powerless, until you energize them by giving them attention. Ask yourself, “Who sees the thoughts? Who is the observer? Can the observer be observed?” Persist in this inquiry and you will understand that “I” is the consciousness, the awareness itself. In this understanding is liberty.

    Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or need further explanation. I wish you days of great peace.

  • 7

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    Natalee is a qualified and registered counsellor, life coach and parenting specialist and trainer and assessor.Natalee is the CEO of Enriching Horizons a business dedicated … View Profile

    This is a very common issue that can occur after suffering trauma. We are brought into awareness of the dangers around us and it highlights for us our own mortality. Many people suffer from anxiety and negative thinking patterns after trauma. The professionals above have mentioned some fantastic ways to work with these thoughts you just need to find what works for you. I wanted just to ensure you that this is very normal.

  • 9

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    My speciality is Anger Management for individuals and couples. The program I developed is held over 4 one hour sessions and substantially reduces anger over … View Profile

    In response to the reply by Dr Paul McQueen regardng the use of the STOP word to control the negative thinking, my experience is that if it is used as positive thinking then it won't work, because there is normally more negatives in the subconsicous mind, which eventually overrides it.
    An approach I have used for both controlling anger and anxiety is to create a new habit, which overides the old habit. With anxiety the habit is “Stop, Find Calm”. The habit is created as follows:
    1. Say with words “Stop, find Calm” 100 times a day silently in your head.
    2. Talk no responsiblity for finding the calm. Just say the words as though they meaning nothing.
    3. Don't try and be calm while saying the words. DO NOTHING.
    If you say these words a new habit will be formed within 2 days. After two days you will feel the calm. After that, when you are feeling anxious repeat the words STOP, FIND CALM and your anxiety will drop significantly. After a period of time your subconsicous mind will automatically  associate calm with anxiety.
    I have tested this method with over 300 clients and it works wth 80% of clients. The three types of clients it doesn't work with are:
    1. Those that are significantly more depressed than anxious. This group seem to be already below the calm level, but in a different form.
    2. Those that are highly implusive. They require another new habit to be added so they achieve calm.
    3. Those that have cognitive impairment of some kind.

    In answering the question related to morbid thoughts as you have described, addressing anxiety and panic are only part of your symptoms. Some of the other replies related to dealing with grief, mindfulness and talking to a counsellor are appropriate for yourself. I particular it would be helpful to talk to someone about your  “what if” thinking which is creating a lot  stress in your life:
    a  What if my future job is not ok?
    b What if my moving in with my partner does not work out?
    c. What if my ex wife escalates legal action?
    d. What if I have to make a decision in the future about euthanasia?
    e. What if my somethng happens to my partner or son?

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