What Are Racing Thoughts and What Causes Them?

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Racing thoughts are consistent, persistent, often intrusive thoughts that come in rapid succession. These thoughts are difficult to shut down and can impede focus and concentration, prevent sleep, and impact your daily course of life. There is a direct link between depression and anxiety and racing thoughts. It is possible to delineate between typical cognitive processing and the more concerning symptoms of racing thoughts.

  • Cannot be turned off or controlled. Rather, it feels like they control you.
  • Disrupt your ability to focus on other important tasks.
  • Tend to spiral downward in contemplating worst-case scenarios or bring a sense of impending worry or doom with them.
  • Come in rapid succession and may feel like multiple thoughts occurring at once.

Racing thoughts can be powerful and overwhelming. They are connected to different types of behavioral health conditions. Of all the racing thought causes, anxiety and depression are generally the most common. Here is an overview of each, as well as other common causes.

Anxiety

Chronic stress, panic attacks, and the fear of an onset of a panic attack are all associated with anxiety and racing thoughts. Anxiety can be cause by both external and internal factors. It is important to speak to a practitioner to determine the severity and how to help.

Depression

Depression, like anxiety, can be a cause from both external and internal factors. Highly stressful life situations such as divorce, job loss, and trauma can all cause depression. Genetic and biological components can also play a role.ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is characterized by the inability to remain attentive. This is especially true when people feel over-stimulate by external stimuli. This inattention can frequently be described as racing thoughts but is often the inability to focus on one thing at a time.

Miscellaneous Issues

Additional behavioral health conditions such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia,  and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are also associated with racing thoughts. Drug use, especially amphetamines, can cause racing thoughts. Even some prescription medications can be contributors. There are a variety of factors that influence thoughts that aren’t limited to mental health that should be considered and ruled out before making a diagnosis.

Calming Racing Thoughts

Identifying what is causing the racing thoughts determines what needs to occur to calm them, and a practitioner can help with both. There are grounding and breathing techniques that can help one to re-center, be present and regain control of their thoughts. Soothing music, exercise, and stretching can also help, different approaches can work for different people. Cognitive distortions can improve with therapy and medications can help with chemical imbalances. It is important to understand the root cause of the symptom in order to effectively treat the issue.

Behavioral health conditions are the largest contributing factor to racing thoughts and is nothing to be ashamed about. Anxiety and depression are the most common among both adolescents and adults, but other mental health issues are contributing factors, as well. If you or a loved one is struggling, a practitioner can help you achieve better quality of life. To schedule an appointment, please contact us.

Learn More

Suggested Links
Atlanta Outpatient Treatment Adult IOP
Adolescent Mental Health Program Intensive Outpatient Program

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