Can’t Stop Writing About a Break-Up

Reader’s Question

After I broke up with my boyfriend, I started writing in a diary to make myself feel better, at least I guess that’s why I did. I would just write about what I was feeling and how it was impacting me. At first it was just a little writing in the diary and then it became more and more writing. Before I new it, I was writing for hours and hours a day, even doing it at work on my computer, writing and writing and then deleting what I wrote so no one would see it. Now it’s almost all that I do, it really freaks me out, and I don’t feel like I could stop. Is this even about my boyfriend anymore? I am obsessed with the breakup and writing about it and I don’t even like the guy. My mind wont shut this off.

What could be wrong with me? Am I one of those OCD people?

Psychologist’s Reply

This is a great example of an unexpected symptom in depression. Here’s the theory: Folks become depressed following the breakup of a romantic relationship. If the depression continues, it can change our brain chemistry, typically lowering a neurotransmitter called Serotonin. Low Serotonin then produces what we often call the “physical symptoms” of depression such as aches/pains, headaches, fatigue, sleep problems, racing thoughts, appetite disturbance, etc.

Here’s the rub…Low Serotonin is also associated with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. For some people who develop depression — they suddenly find themselves tormented by obsessive thoughts and behavior (e.g., journaling). They become preoccupied with germs, begin counting things (lights, floor tiles, etc.), develop rituals (TV must be turned off on an even channel), etc.

As you noticed, the OCD behaviors begin to take over, and while it looks like it’s about the boyfriend, it actually isn’t. It becomes all about the journaling or obsessive/compulsive behavior. Sometimes the OCD features take over our lives and we can’t work, attend school, or socialize because we’re too busy dealing with the OCD symptoms. If this is the case, I would recommend that you see a mental health professional. We have medications that can decrease if not stop the OCD behavior. The fact that your mind won’t shut off is a clear indicator that an antidepressant medication may be very helpful in your situation.

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