What Is Overthinking Disorder?
“Overthinking disorder” may not be an official diagnosis, but overthinking can be a symptom of various mental health disorders, particularly anxiety disorders. Stress, anxiety, perfectionism, and negative thought patterns can all contribute to overthinking. If you’d like to gain control over overthinking, you might start by practicing mindfulness, challenging negative thoughts, engaging in self-care, practicing positive self-talk, and spending time with friends and family. Therapy, whether in person or online, can be a way to get personalized insight and guidance regarding how to overcome overthinking and any underlying mental health disorders.
The negative effects of overthinking on mental health
Overthinking may be a common mental health challenge that can negatively affect your emotional and physical well-being. When you become excessively preoccupied with your thoughts, it may lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress. This could also manifest as physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach upset.
Overthinking may interfere with your ability to make decisions, enjoy the present moment, and have a good night's sleep. It tends to be a good idea to learn how to manage your thoughts and emotions so you can break the cycle of overthinking and improve your overall mental health.
Understanding the causes of overthinking
Stress and anxiety
Stress and anxiety are likely to be two of the most common causes of overthinking. Stress can further amplify the cycle of overthinking, as worrying tends to breed more worrying. Try to recognize when your mind begins to spiral downward and take measures to prevent it from taking control.
Perfectionism can be another major factor in overthinking. By attempting to control every detail and outcome, you may get caught up in thinking about things that cannot possibly be controlled or are outside of your power. Once you can break free from what might seem like an endless cycle, it can help to remind yourself that striving for perfection is usually unrealistic and impractical.
Negative thought patterns
Negative thinking patterns may contribute to overthinking as well. If you have experienced trauma in the past or have deeply ingrained negative beliefs, it may take time and effort to break the habit of overthinking. Practicing mindfulness and challenging negative thoughts can combat these thought patterns.
Generalized anxiety disorder
Overthinking could also be a symptom of generalized anxiety disorder, which is a mental illness characterized by constant and uncontrollable worrying, even when there’s no reason behind it. Generalized anxiety disorder may also occur alongside other conditions such as social anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and panic disorder. Treatments for this mental health condition might include relaxation techniques and talk therapy.
Strategies to break the cycle of overthinking
Another strategy for breaking the cycle of overthinking may be to challenge negative thoughts and reframe them in a more positive way. This may involve questioning the evidence for your negative thoughts or finding alternative, more realistic perspectives.
Talking to someone you trust about your worries and challenges may help you feel heard and understood, and it may offer perspective and encouragement as well. Practicing self-compassion and self-care may reduce the negative impact of overthinking.
Engaging in activities that nourish your mind and body, such as exercise, good nutrition, and relaxation, may help you feel more grounded and resilient. Finally, seeking support from friends, family, or a therapist can be invaluable in breaking the cycle of overthinking.
Coping with triggers that may lead to overthinking
To effectively break the cycle of overthinking, it may be helpful to identify common triggers that may lead you to overthink. This may include certain situations, people, or emotions that tend to set off your worrying thoughts. Once you have identified these triggers, you may develop a plan to cope with them. This can involve finding ways to avoid or minimize exposure to the trigger or developing strategies to manage your thoughts and emotions when you encounter the trigger.
Some of these strategies might include
- Practice mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing, and paying attention to your five senses.
- Challenge negative thoughts and reframe them in a more positive way
- Engage in activities that nourish your mind and body, such as exercise, good nutrition, and relaxation
- Identify common triggers that may lead to overthinking and develop a plan for coping with them
- Take time out of each day for self-care activities such as journaling, reading, listening to music, etc.
- Practice self-acceptance and forgiveness
- Practice positive self-talk and recognize when you have unrealistic and irrational thoughts
- Set goals that are achievable, attainable, and motivating
- Spend time with friends and family who support you and help you stay positive
- Avoid making assumptions or jumping to conclusions
- Take breaks from the activity that is causing you stress or worry and take time for yourself
- Seek professional support, if necessary, such as counseling or online therapy
- Focus on the positives in life and practice gratitude
The physical health consequences of overthinking
According to studies, overthinking may increase your risk of experiencing physical health issues like headaches, stomachaches, and sleep disruptions. These physiological symptoms can occur due to the tension and anxiety that frequently accompany overthinking.
Over time, overthinking may also impair your immune system. Your body's stress response is typically triggered when you're anxious or stressed out, potentially generating substances like cortisol, which can weaken your immune system. This can mean that you may become more prone to disease and ongoing health issues.
Online therapy for overthinking
Consulting a mental health professional, like an online therapist, may be helpful in breaking the cycle of overthinking. If you frequently overthink various aspects of your daily life, then the process of scheduling and attending a therapy session in person may seem daunting. With online therapy, you can attend sessions from the comfort of your home or any location with an internet connection where you feel at ease.
In addition, you may not need to worry about rearranging your schedule to fit in therapy sessions, as online therapy platforms frequently allow for sessions scheduled outside of typical office hours.
Recent research has shown that online therapy may be an effective way to treat overthinking and the anxiety that may be leading to this symptom. For instance, one study stated that online therapy can be effective in treating various mental health concerns, particularly anxiety and the effects of stress.
How do you stop overthinking disorder?
While overthinking isn’t a clinical disorder on its own, it may be associated with certain diagnosable mental health disorders such as depression and generalized anxiety disorder, or other mental health challenges like stress or negative thinking patterns. If you’re looking for support in finding out how to treat “overthinking disorder,” or a tendency to overthink, connecting with a therapist or counselor could be helpful.
What is the cause of overthinking?
A person may tend to overthink because they’re experiencing a mental health condition like depression or anxiety. Or, it may be the result of their typical patterns of thinking negatively, which a person may not even realize they engage in. It could also be brought about by a particularly stressful situation or chronic stress. In all of these cases, a licensed mental health professional like a therapist could be helpful in working to shift such thought patterns.
Is overthinking OCD?
Thought patterns typically associated with overthinking can manifest in a person living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, with OCD, these thoughts (obsessions) are usually accompanied by certain, specific behaviors or actions (compulsions) designed to counteract or cope with the uncomfortable thoughts. If these types of thoughts are not accompanied by compulsions, you may be experiencing stress, negative thinking patterns, or another diagnosable condition besides OCD such as depression or anxiety.
What are the symptoms of Overthinker?
Someone who tends to overthink may spend a lot of their time fixated on past or future events. They may often go over conversations that have or have not yet happened in their minds to analyze what they said and how they said it, or to plan what they might say. They might have trouble relaxing or stopping the flow of these worried thoughts, sometimes to the point that it disrupts their sleep, concentration, or general well-being. They might frequently second-guess their own decisions and apologize more than is necessary for small, perceived missteps or mistakes.
Is there a pill for overthinking?
There’s no medication that can be taken that will instantly cure overthinking. However, for those who are experiencing a mental health condition like depression or anxiety that may cause symptoms like overthinking, medication may sometimes be part of the treatment plan.
In either case, some form of talk therapy is usually the first-line or companion treatment for these types of illnesses. It’s also commonly recommended as a source of general support if you want to learn techniques to help you stop thinking in this way or to manage overthinking tendencies. Remember to consult your doctor before starting, stopping, or changing any medication.
What mental illness causes extreme overthinking?
Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are examples of some types of mental illnesses that could cause or be exacerbated by a tendency to overthink. This symptom could be accompanied by other mental and physical symptoms as well depending on the condition, such as trouble focusing, persistent worry, headaches, stomach aches, trouble sleeping, and changes in appetite. Treatment for these conditions is available.
How do I stop making scenarios in my head?
Coming up with potential future scenarios in your head could be a sign of a mental health condition or challenge if the scenarios are often negative and/or if you have trouble controlling this tendency. Learning to shift your typical thought patterns and habits in a healthier and more realistic direction may help. A therapist is often a useful resource for individuals who are looking for support with this type of cognitive reframing.
What is the difference between overthinking and anxiety?
Overthinking can be a form or symptom of anxiety, and anxiety can cause or exacerbate a tendency to overthink. To put it another way, anxiety in this context generally refers to a diagnosable mental health condition like generalized anxiety disorder, and overthinking can be a symptom or manifestation of a condition like this. Many but not all people who have trouble with overthinking have an anxiety disorder, and many but not all people who have an anxiety disorder also have a tendency to overthink.
How do introverts stop overthinking?
Learning to stop overthinking usually requires developing a sense of awareness of one’s thought patterns, which mindfulness may help with. Once you can recognize flawed thought patterns in yourself, you can begin working toward shifting them in a healthier and more realistic direction. This process is usually a key component of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which a trained provider can guide you through.
Is overthinking the biggest cause of unhappiness?
While it can be difficult to measure any one psychological tendency that contributes the most to general unhappiness, it is true that overthinking can cause or add to unhappiness in some people. The constant picking apart of situations, interactions, and decisions can be exhausting, and it can lead the individual to feel as if they never get things right.
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