• Introduction:

                    “Stop worrying about it”, “don’t obsess over it”, “don’t give it a second thought.”  Do any of these comments sound familiar to you?  Today I would like to talk about something that is prominent in both depression and anxiety, but tend to present stronger in the anxiety family of disorders.  That is cognitive perseveration.  What is cognitive perseveration?  How does it manifest?  What can you do to help when you are perseverating?  Many of you reading this now may have has some form of cognitive perseveration at some point in your life and not know what it is, some of you may be doing it right now.

    So… what is a cognitive perseveration?

                     A cognitive perseveration is our mind’s way of getting stuck on something.  It can be anything, an item, a negative thought, or just something has grasped the entire focus of our attention and we cannot seem to focus on anything else.  It often presents as an intense worry towards the negative in our lives, whether it is a perceived upcoming event, a known past event, something you are going through right now, or a sense of impending dread.

    How do cognitive perseverations manifest?

                    This one is a complicated question to answer as each individual person is unique in their life experiences.  The most common form of cognitive perseveration happens when a life stressor becomes so charged in our minds that it becomes the sole focus of our attention.   This focus gets so intense to the point it impacts the quality of our life.  You may not get enough sleep because you stay up too late due to the often intrusive thought of the object.  Your stress levels increase causing you to be hyper-aroused to everything around you, or you may become so distracted that you are unaware of anything else happening around you.  You may even isolate more from others.

    What can you do to help with a cognitive perseveration?

                    The most obvious answer is cognitive-behavioral therapy.  Being able to understand and identify when you are stuck in a cognitive perseveration will help you be able to break free from it and the emotional charge it takes on your mind and body.  From a basic standpoint, when you become aware that your mind is starting to wonder to the negative object, do something else to help distract yourself from it, or you can acknowledge the thought as important and make a promise to yourself that you will work on it later.  These are akin to giving yourself permission to rest.  These are just a few of the many helpful techniques that are useful to get the cognitive perseveration unstuck and allow you to function in your daily life.  Ultimately, if you feel you need help, reach out to your therapist.


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