IDK About You, But My Hyper-fixations Aren’t Cute and Quirky

Have you seen the trend on TikTok where people (mostly women) talk about their current hyper-fixation? Honestly, it’s a cute trend. They show the foods, exercises, shops, and beverages they’re currently obsessed with and keep going back to again and again. I’ve found some really cool new products and habits by watching this trend!

But it’s hard to see the depiction of other people’s hyper-fixations as these cute and quirky things they do and not feel a little bummed out.

My hyper-fixations aren’t like that. They’re not like that at all.

When I hyper-fixate on something, I’m all-in. It consumes me. It’s all I think about, all I want to do. It intrudes upon my thoughts when I’m working or parenting my children. I ruminate on it all day so that it actually interferes with other things I’m doing. And I will do that thing over and over until I am utterly burnt out and never want to look at it again.

Ultimately, I ring every ounce of joy out of it in a very concentrated amount of time and leave nothing left to enjoy about it. The joy I once felt toward my hyper-fixation turns to disgust.

Just to name a few of the things I’ve done the hyper-fixation to burnout thing with:

— riding my Peloton

— eating choffles (cheese waffles, which I discovered from the weight loss community)

— doing face yoga exercises

— journaling

— making mocktails

— going “sober curious”

All of these things brought me great joy while I was hyper-fixated on them. Then, when the inevitable burnout came, I rejected them and never looked back. The ten pounds I worked so hard to lose riding my Peloton came back and then some. My hand became cramped from writing in my journal and I had a few weeks of arthritic pain. And I went back to my wine with an unhealthy vengeance.

I call it the hyper-fixation rebound. When the hyper-fixation is over, I not only release it from my life, but I go wildly in the opposite direction. It’s not cute and quirky. It’s actually pretty disruptive to my life.

An enormous act of self-care on my mental health and healing journey has been learning the delicate act of self-restraint when it comes to my hyper-fixations. I’ve had to learn that hyper-fixations require a bit of self-regulation if I want to avoid the rebound. Self-care has meant not letting myself give in entirely to the hyper-fixations.

I have to set limits around them.

If it’s a food I’m hyper-fixated on, I allow myself to have it once or twice a day. If it’s a fitness activity, I can do it a few times a week. It’s a balancing act because if I’m not careful, I can make the restrictions my hyper-fixation. I’ll become fixated on making schedules to regulate my hyper-fixation, which is not only not cute but also not very helpful to my goals. It’s a matter of putting gentle, flexible rules around my relationship with my hyper-fixation so that it (a) does not interfere with my life, and (b) doesn’t lead to burnout.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t have it nailed down quite yet. I’m just beginning to wrap my head around how much of an obstacle my hyper-fixations have been in my life. This, for me, is ground zero: the place where I start over, building something better than what I had before. I would rather not be the kind of person who is disgusted by all the things I once loved because I drained all the pleasure out of them too fast. I want to be someone who collects interests, hobbies, and newfound activities. I want to keep them all in my tool chest as things to do when I need a moment of joy or fun.

So, my relationship with my hyper-fixations can’t be cute and quirky right now. It has to be measured, self-regulated, and methodical. Hopefully, with time, I’ll learn temperance when it comes to my hyper-fixations. I won’t need the somewhat rigid (but flexible) rules I’m putting in place for now while I learn some muscle memory around self-regulation. I hope that I will eventually learn how to enjoy all the things I find myself hyper-fixated on, never reaching the rebound-to-burnout phase.

It’s going to take time. But I believe I’ll get there.

Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.

Check out her blog called Compassionate Feminism on Psychology Today to join a feminist conversation centered in openness, empathy, and equity.

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