Have you ever found yourself unable to stop thinking about someone in your every waking moment? A new crush you can't stop Insta-stalking? The ex you can't get over? The new acquaintance you're dying to be friends with?
Kate Stewart, a psychotherapist and dating coach, says that if you can't get someone out of your head, you can likely blame your brain chemicals — especially if your obsession is with someone you've just met.
Stewart says that when we bond with someone, that triggers a release of dopamine in the brain, which is a feel-good chemical that's released when you achieve a goal you've worked really hard for.
"When we ruminate and really obsess about someone, it’s because the dopamine response has gotten triggered," she says.
That's why, more often than not, you obsess over people you don't really know quite as well — as opposed to someone you've been in a relationship with for five years.
"Dopamine draws people together and when they’ve been together a little longer, the oxytocin sets in and that’s a bonding hormone," Stewart says. "It’s more about comfort and stability."
Eventually, you'll likely stop thinking about them so much, either because you've found someone new to think about, or you've realised that the person you can't stop thinking about wasn't as great as you initially thought. But that beginning stage — where they seem to occupy every part of your waking mind — can be tough to get through.
If you want to stop thinking about them, Stewart says that unfortunately, there's no fail-proof method to completely get them out of your head.
The one thing you can do? Distract yourself.
"What I usually tell people is, when you catch yourself thinking about someone, turn to something else that you can think about, whether it's a project you want to do, or something else positive," Stewart says.
It's a little bit like meditation: When you get distracted, gently bring yourself back to your breathing or what you're meditating on (in this case, something other than this person). And, like meditation, you have to try not to beat yourself up if your thoughts drift somewhere you don't want them to be.
"What happens for a lot of people is they catch themselves thinking about someone and beat themselves up, like, oh I shouldn’t think about them anymore," Stewart says. "That doesn’t help, that makes it worse. But if you focus on redirecting [your thoughts], there isn’t a judgment there — it’s just like, ok we’re going to think about something else."
So whether you can't stop thinking about a new crush, an ex, someone you barely dated, or the friend who ghosted you, the next time you catch yourself obsessing, switch your thoughts over to something positive.