Can’t Stop Anxiety and Racing Thoughts, Concentration Nonexistent

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Reader’s Question

I am from Delhi, India and I am a 22-year-old computer science college student. I have had symptoms of OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) like hand-washing and performing rituals, etc. since childhood, as well as slight ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) symptoms like being unable to hold concentration on class lectures or a study task for too long. But in recent years I have noticed another problem that has been affecting my academic performance.

I have come to notice that it has become impossible for me to control my mind enough to make the right decision and then follow it. I am always worried and have continuous anxiety or worrisome thoughts cycling in my mind even when I am not thinking them. I can’t seem to stop them at all. These thoughts can be about events that happened to me in the recent days, issues that are completely undeserving to be paid this much attention or things that don’t even exist. These thoughts are often irrational, intrusive and paranoid.

Even talking to anyone or sitting around someone is a problem because it might cause me to be worried about what we talked about or where I was sitting and what would be the consequences? I have such worrisome thoughts that I’m not able to concentrate on my studies or anything else that requires attention. When someone asks me to do something or says something to me my mind starts worrying about why they asked or the reasons behind it.

It’s gotten so I am unable to concentrate on anything, I can’t pay attention to my class lectures or to someone teaching me something and sometimes I can’t even listen to someone talking to me no matter how hard I try. I have to read the same line several times in a sentence to finally understand its meaning or what it has to say because when I am reading the text my sub-conscious mind is actually thinking something else. I am unable to change my worrisome thoughts or stop them while I am trying to concentrate no matter how hard I try. I would like to know what’s going on.

Psychologist’s Reply

A. One of the most distressing symptoms that some people report is the perception that their thoughts are “racing” so fast, unprompted, and so unpredictably that they can’t concentrate or think clearly anymore. And “racing thoughts” can accompany several different conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, and the spectrum of anxiety disorders. Only a thorough, professional evaluation can determine all the factors involved in one’s difficulties with this troubling symptom.

Not only are the conditions that typically accompany racing thoughts quite treatable, but the symptom itself can be brought under control with appropriate therapeutic techniques.

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