What Is Overthinking Disorder?
By Sarah Fader
Updated November 07, 2019
Reviewer Tanya Harell
Do you find yourself overthinking all of the time? Are the thoughts so disruptive and pervasive that you feel like your own mind won't let you be? Keep reading - and learn what this could be.
Overthinking Disorder - What is it?
Overthinking Disorder doesn't exist. There are many different kinds of anxiety disorders where an individual engages in overthinking or rumination, but there is not a disorder. When an individual cannot stop obsessing and worrying over things it can interfere with your quality of life.
You may be wondering "what conditions cause overthinking?" Some mental health diagnoses where a person can't stop their brain from rumination are PTSD, trauma, agoraphobia, panic disorder, selective mutism, separation anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, substance-induced anxiety disorders, or it could potentially be a symptom of some other illness.
When it comes to anxiety disorders, many of them have overthinking as a symptom. For example, a person with panic disorder might ruminate and overthink when they are going to have a panic attack again. They obsess over something that could trigger their attack. Not only are they anxious, they now have meta-anxiety, which is anxiety about being anxious. Overthinking their panic attack made it feel more daunting.
Overthinking is common. You don't have to have an anxiety disorder to engage in constant rumination. You might say it's part of the human condition. We all overthink things at times: You may be overly concerned with what you said or did to somebody. You may be worried about performing at school or work. You might be concerned about how others see you. These are all examples of how you might engage in overthinking.
Other examples of overthinking include:
- When you are obsessing over what you should have said or done
- Performance anxiety, or worrying about how you measure up to others at work
- Engaging in "what-if" scenarios where you consider what could happen in a variety of circumstances
- Catastrophizing or thinking the worst will happen
- Worrying about having a panic attack unexpectedly
- Intrusive or obsessive thoughts
Overthinking is pervasive, but there's help for the condition. Many people suffer from obsessing and worrying about things that are out of their control. A common treatment for this type of anxiety is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). CBT helps people challenge their negative or irrational thinking and change their thoughts into productive, positive ones. Getting therapy or counseling for anxiety can make a huge difference for someone with overthinking. You can work with a therapist in your local area, or with one of the trained mental health professionals here at BetterHelp. Online counseling is an excellent place to work on anxiety and start learning coping skills to manage it.
Many people are familiar with the term anxiety disorder (and, in fact, millions of Americans suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder every day), but we tend to overlook a major symptom of anxiety disorders, which is overthinking.
The definition of overthinking is to ruminate or obsess about something. A lot of people, when hearing this definition, might believe they are overthinkers. Who doesn't go a single day without overthinking something? We wonder if we're making the right choices from small things like picking the fastest route on our commute that morning or selecting the right restaurant for dinner to things like our children's wellbeing and our family's safety and security. But that's normal. It's common to worry and overthink to some extent.
However, there are harmful effects overthinking can have on a person mentally and emotionally. When overthinking as it pertains to an anxiety disorder, it would be excessive thoughts about something that causes one anxiety, stress, fear, or dread. It's not just thinking too much about something-it's obsessing about something so much that it affects one's ability to function in their life.
When you wonder or worry about yourself, your life, your family, your friends, or anything else and you don't have an overthinking issue, whatever you're pondering about l worries you for a while, then after a short period of time, you go on with your day. You continue worrying at times, but you don't constantly ruminate. You don't find the worry interfering with the rest of your life. With overthinking as the result of an anxiety disorder, however, the worry is all the person can think about and even though they may not obsess about the same thing all the time, they're always concerned about something.
If you believe you may suffer from overthinking due to anxiety, you may have found that you've experienced one or more of these situations:
- Difficulty following along with and contributing to a conversation because you go over potential responses or statements time and again until the conversation has either ended or the window of opportunity for speaking was lost
- Continually comparing yourself to the people around you and how you measure up to them
- Focusing on worst-case scenarios either involving yourself or the ones you love
- Reliving past failures or mistakes over and over again and you're unable to move past them
- Worrying about future tasks and/or goals until they feel almost impossible to accomplish
- Reliving a past traumatic experience (such as abuse or the loss of a loved one) leaving you unable to cope with it
- An inability to slow down the racing of vague thoughts, worries or emotions
No two people will experience overthinking in the same way. However, those who do experience it will all find that their quality of life is compromised by their inability to effectively control negative thoughts and emotions. It can make it more difficult to go out and socialize, enjoy hobbies, or be productive at work as their mind spends a disproportionate amount of time and energy on specific lines of thought. There's a sense that they don't have full control over their own minds or emotions, which can be very damaging to one's mental health.
Making friends or keeping them can be difficult with overthinking because you struggle to communicate when something is wrong or you might communicate excessively. It can be extremely difficult to talk to them because you're concerned about what to say or to do anything with them because you're overly concerned about how you'll do or what will happen. Someone who overthinks may struggle even to carry on general conversations or to interact in a normal environment. They may have difficulty even going to the store or to an appointment.
The truth is, overthinking can affect anything and everything about your life. It can affect the way you way you work with others, impact your social life, and take a toll on your personal life. What that means is it can start to wear away at you and at the relationships you have with the people around you. Overthinking can create serious problems in your life.
How to Stop Overthinking
"Stop overthinking things!"
You may have heard this many times, and it's quite unhelpful. You can't just flip a switch and stop overthinking. In fact, being told to stop overthinking often ends up with you thinking things more. It's a vicious cycle.
Essentially, teaching yourself not to overthink is a long process that you have to train your brain to do. Let's look at some common reasons why you may overthink and teach how to stop overthinking.
When you can't sleep, your mind can race and you may have obsessive thoughts about getting sleep. Often, this overthinking comes when insomnia strikes, and then continues with the next day. You may feel tired, and your brain is less focused. You may have negative thoughts and obsessive thoughts about not being able to sleep.
Insomnia is called a vicious cycle for a reason. When you have it, it's hard to stop overthinking about not sleeping. Here are a few ways you can reduce that when you're having trouble sleeping.
- Meditation and mindfulness apps. These help you live at the present moment, discarding any thoughts or emotions you may have that are intrusive. Besides the fact that mindfulness can train your brain, it can calm you down and make it easier to sleep.
- Get out of bed if you can't fall asleep. If you're in bed and you can't fall asleep, it feels like it's impossible to pass out. Your brain associates your brain with restlessness. Get out and do something relaxing. Don't spend time on social media or do something stimulating. Instead, relax yourself.
- Realize that you're not going to die from the lack of sleep. While your fear and anxiety tells you that you can't fall asleep, most cases are temporary. While your health declines from chronic sleep deprivation, worrying too much about an occasional bout of insomnia is going to make the problem worse. If the problem persists, it's time to see a doctor or therapist.
Another reason why people overthink is because of decision making. Sometimes, the decision is something big. Other times, the decision making is over something a bit silly, such as what restaurant to pick.
While you should think about your decisions, overthinking them just stalls time, especially if you have a lot of people waiting for you to make the decision. Here's how to finally overcome decision making anxiety.
- Make a time limit on your decision making. Now, this time limit doesn't have to be so short that you feel extremely rushed, but it should be short enough to help stop overthinking.
- A lot of people, especially the big decision makers, schedule their thinking times and end up distracting themselves in the meanwhile. Having certain times to think can prevent overthinking anxiety.
- Again, mindfulness and living in the present moment can help. The present moment should involve the logic behind making the decision, not the baseless fears you may have.
- In some cases, you can change your mind on a decision. Realizing this can make it easier to make a decision.
Anxiety and Overthinking
Many mental illnesses can lead to overthinking, and the connection between anxiety and overthinking is an obvious one. Those who have anxiety are never living in the present.
Parts of the brain are always worrying about what is happening next, and extreme anxiety and overthinking can make it hard to leave your home.
Here's how to stop anxiety and overthinking when your anxious brain tells you no.
- Set small goals. By setting goals too big, your anxious mind may overthink things. Anxiety and overthinking makes it hard for you to set bigger goals. By setting smaller goals, you can work your way up.
- Again, we can't stress the importance of meditation and mindfulness. It's good for many mental illnesses, especially when it comes to anxiety and overthinking. Meditation can pull you back to the present moment and calm down your body should anxiety strike.
- Figure out what causes your anxious brain to overthink. Triggers can make your mental illnesses worse, and by spending time writing down what triggers your anxiety and overthinking, it makes it easier to manage.
- Distractions are always important in anxiety and overthinking. Why you should eventually start paying attention to your problems, distractions can help lower your anxiety, stress, and other issues. Try watching a movie or working on a jigsaw puzzle.
- Start to notice when you're having rumblings of an anxiety attack. Then, try to get out of there. Often, anxiety and overthinking can be prevented, especially if you know what the triggers are.
- If your anxiety and overthinking is too much and is taking up all your time, it's time to see a professional.
Anxiety and overthinking are two things that go hand in hand, but by managing your anxiety and overthinking, you can make it much better.
Bipolar Disorder and Overthinking
When one thinks of bipolar disorder, they tend to think of the mental health information they know about. And that health information is the fact that bipolar disorder people tend to be either depressed or manic. People with it have a hard time with their mood, but they may also have a hard time with overthinking.
With bipolar disorder, overthinking upsetting or distressing thoughts can happen with both sides of the coin. With depression, one may be worried about what is going to happen in the future. Or, they may worry about the side effects of the medication they take.
With mania, you may have trouble paying attention to your thoughts, making it harder to challenge your thoughts. It's hard to sometimes separate the real life from the fiction. Or, you may be so euphoric you spend time spending in order to feel safe, then regret it.
With bipolar disorder, it's important you seek the help of online therapy or an in-person therapist. Online therapy works especially well for mild to moderate cases. A therapist can give you the basic information and mental health information about bipolar disorder. In addition, it's important you pay attention to your thoughts.
Sometimes, your bipolar episodes can last for different periods of time, and your thoughts can worsen them. You may focus on the negative and make your disorder worsen for long periods of times. Bipolar disorder or not, our thoughts that pop into our minds tend to make the problem worse. Seek help if you need it.
Thinking Positive Thoughts
You may wonder how to stop overthinking. One way is to think more positive thoughts. You may roll your eyes at this. You're thinking that positive thoughts, are by definition, something that is straight out of a cheesy health book.
However, the science backs up that positive thoughts and more positive thinking patterns are the key to success. If you want to think more positively, here are some ways to do so.
- Take a look at your confirmation bias. Negative thoughts tend to linger, and when it comes to positive thoughts, it's usually the opposite. You should try to change that thinking around a bit.
- Instead, start to notice your positive thoughts. When you start thinking positively, write it down. Notice when you're thinking positive thoughts and compile them all.
- We can't stress this enough. Practice mindfulness. Mindful techniques teaches you to let go of any emotional distress. A destructive thought goes through the window. Focus your attention on the positive thoughts.
- Think of all the times you've been helping people. Think of something that makes you happy. Any distressing thoughts, just let them go. It is a step process that does require practice.
- Some people think that positive thinking means no negative thinking whatsoever. Anything concerning should be ignored, no matter how big it is. This is not true at all. Thinking positive thoughts just means having less negative thinking in the overthinking department. Distressing thoughts are going to happen, but positive thinking teaches us that the emotional distress is temporary and there is a lot to think about that's positive.
- Try cleaning up your feed on social media. Eliminate the more negative people and focus your attention on positivity. Yes, you should consume negative news too, but many people are overloaded with it, and if you're an overthinker, it's not good for you.
Mentally Strong People
Mentally strong people are less likely to overthink. Think of your brain as a muscle. The more you train it, the more mentally strong you'll get. Increasing your mental health strength is especially important as you age. Mental health declines with aging, but with the right health information, you can train your mind.
Here is some good mental health information for your mind:
- Mentally strong people exercise a lot. When you think of exercise, you may imagine strong people improving your body. However, exercise has many positive side effects for your mind. For example, your brain releases feel-good chemicals that kill pain and help reduce your stress hormones. Not to mention, exercise helps distract you from your thoughts, making it great if you want to know how to stop overthinking.
- Mentally strong people try to socialize as much as they can. Try talking to a close friend and reach them on a deeper level. If you don't have any friends to talk to, try getting out and talking to someone in a bookstore, cafe, or another place. When you're talking to new people and trying to make friends, you're experiencing much less worrying and more being in the know.
- Mentally strong people regularly practice cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy helps you get rid of bad habits and thoughts, and it can be used to treat all sorts of mental illness. Eating disorders, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and more.
- Strong people tend to train themselves mentally by mixing it up. Doing the same things over and over can have some negative side effects. Look at an aspect of your life and think about what you can do differently. Try having a new hobby, going for your dream job, or just learning something new. When you start living for a new day, it helps with your overthinking.
You may wonder why "reduce stress" is on here. Well, stress and our tendency to overthink go hand in hand. Stress is our body's way to help us when we're over our heads in a situation that threatens us, however, our body can't tell the difference between real danger and common problems, and thus the stress piles on.
People tend to find it hard to cope with all their stress.
Some stress can be good. Stress associated with positive psychology, which is good stress, tends to challenge you and make you want to do better. But positive psychology only goes so far. Too much stress can make your problems worse, including:
- Making you fear rejection, guilt, failure, or losing everything.
- You tend to worry about the things you can't change. Most people realize that they should worry about the things they can change and ignore the things they can't change, but it's hard to deal with overthinking that.
- Physical stress is a problem with too much stress. Everyday hurts, literally. Physical stress means that stress has actual, painful effects. Examples of physical stress include headaches and other body aches, which may also be clinical depression.
Stress can happen to anyone. It doesn't matter if you're a child, in your teen years, or an adult. If you have a habit of overthinking and have stress, here are some simple ways to reduce stress. Anyone can do these simple ways, and these simple ways don't require a doctor, either.
- Practice cognitive behavioral therapy. This is something that takes practice, but learning to identify thoughts that are by definition, intrusive, and learning to cope with these thoughts are important.
- Write down your problems and order them from most to least important. A part of problem solving involves you solving the easiest problem first and moving on up. Soon, you'll find problem solving easy.
- Think of your fear of failure and other everyday fears. Why do you fear this? How does your stress have an impact on you? Do you fear guilt, failure, or anything else?
- People don't realize the value of working out. It can help reduce your stress by quire a bit.
- Take some time to unwind. See what's happening on your favorite show. Don't spend too much time procrastinating, but instead take a break and come back with a fresh mind.
- Don't take drugs or alcohol. If talking to a therapist or psychologist leads them to prescribe medication, take that.
Another part of overthinking and of generalized anxiety disorder in general is hypochondria. This is when you always feel you have something medically wrong with them, making it a big problem with overthinking.
There are some people who are mildly hypochondriac. For instance, you may think something is wrong with you, usually after paying a visit to Dr. Google, so you talk to your doctor. Then, you discover that nothing is wrong and it's just a problem with overthinking, mixed in with a bit of generalized anxiety disorder.
However, you may be an extreme hypochondriac. You are always meeting today with your doctor about something. After you talk to your doctor, you still have those feelings, and no amount of discussion with your doctor seems to make them go away. No matter how much you try, you still think you're sick.
This is something you need to seek help about. You may have more than just generalized anxiety disorder. By getting therapy, you can finally work up the courage to admit that you're fine.
While many people are skeptical about motivational speakers, they may be able to help. Reading stories about a man who was able to overcome anxiety and live or people who learned to start living at an older age can inspire you and is a good way to distract you from your overthinking.
It's a good way to get some mental health information on a personal level. While some of this mental health information may not be a part of contemporary psychology, some are worth checking out.
For example, spiritual psychologist and author Eckhart Tolle is a good place to go for health information. "Spiritual psychologist and author Eckhart Tolle," you ask. Eckhart Tolle has written many books about the here and now, which is what health information about avoiding overthinking tends to talk about.
Guy Winch, a psychologist, is a good one to listen to as well. Any author of emotional guidance is worth checking out.
When it comes to mindfulness, read all the health information you can get. Some books are short and don't take a lot of time to read. Others do take a lot of time, but the information they give is worth it. Some self-help books sound a bit cheesy, but you'll be surprised with how much it can help with healing, rejection, guilt, failure, and other problems.
When it comes to overthinking, it's essential to consume all the mindfulness content you can. Mindfulness is the key to getting the help you need.
It's worth mentioning that how we think and how the brain works is still a mystery. There are many clinical trials, both clinical, social, and beyond, that may teach us more about the mind. However, these clinical trials are just that, clinical, social, and mental trials.
Maybe one day, we will have a pill for fixing overthinking entirely that isn't rights reserved for clinical trials, but that day is still a long time away.
Overthinking is a behavior that could occur at any time. For someone who has anxiety or any type of anxiety disorder, it can easily have the symptom of overthinking as well. The anxiety and the worry that you have over different situations and different obstacles in your life can quickly turn into overthinking and wondering about what you should do or how you could stop bad things from happening. The truth is, you can't stop all bad things from happening and you can't stop yourself from every bad decision. What you can do is get help.
If you've been struggling to stop overthinking it may be helpful to seek professional treatment. You can find help in many ways, but a convenient and private place to start is via an online counseling site like BetterHelp.com. There, you will find access to licensed counselors ready to help you overcome your struggles with an overthinking. You don't have to stop your thoughts by yourself. Trust an online therapist to guide you toward a healthier way of thinking about your life, and living your life in healthy ways every day.
With online therapy, you'll be able to communicate with a licensed, confidential mental health provider without having to worry about going to a facility or even being seen by anyone but the therapist themselves. You can feel more comfortable because you're in a setting that you feel best in, your home. Not only that but you're going to have control over what's going on. All of this can make it easier for you to open up and for you to start your healing journey alongside your therapist. All you need to do is find the right one.
How BetterHelp Can Support You
BetterHelp is one of the largest, most successful online counseling companies. According to a study at Berkeley Well-Being Institute, 98 percent of clients made significant progress through BetterHelp. Many of the counselors at BetterHelp specialize in treating anxiety disorders, including overthinking disorder.
Many therapists at BetterHelp have had ruminating clients such as yourself. Their ruminative thoughts of aid, healing, rejection, guilt, just didn't seem to go away. However, these are professionals who know your thoughts are unbidden, and these ruminative thoughts don't go away so easily.
A therapist can give you:
- Personal growth. Not just personal growth when your mind's unbidden, but growth in all aspects in your life.
- Emotional first aid healing.
- Therapy techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy to help you with your ruminative thoughts.
- Communication through various mediums. Phone, texting, video chat, and email address are just a few ways you can contact a therapist.
If you're suffering from anxiety, there's hope. Your generalized anxiety disorder is no match for a therapist. They handle generalized anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, and other ailments associated with overthinking. You can work with a licensed mental health counselor who can help you develop the coping skills to manage your anxiety and live a fulfilling life. Read below for some reviews of counselors.
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If you're constantly worrying and overthinking, there is a solution. You can seek the help of a licensed online therapist who will help support you working through these issues.