What Is Overthinking Disorder?

By Sarah Fader

Updated May 09, 2019

Reviewer Tanya Harell

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 few have given much thought to or even heard of overthinking disorder, which often simultaneously affects people suffering from severe anxiety.

The simple definition of overthinking is to think about something too much or for too long. A lot of people, on hearing this definition, would think that they have this disorder. After all, who doesn't go a single day without overthinking something? We wonder if we're making the right choices from small things like if we chose the fastest route on our commute that morning or chose the right restaurant for dinner to things like our children's wellbeing and our family's safety and security. We wonder about everything happening in our lives. But that's actually normal. It's normal to wonder and to worry and to overthink to some extent.

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However, what this definition doesn't explain are the harmful effects overthinking can have on a person mentally and emotionally, as the subjects of excessive overthinking typically have some sort of negative connotation or meaning for whoever is suffering from this disorder. Therefore, the better definition of overthinking as it pertains to overthinking disorder would be excessive thoughts about something that causes one anxiety, stress, fear, dread, etc. It's not just thinking too much about something-it's thinking about something so much that it affects one's ability to fully 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 disorder, whatever you're thinking about probably worries you for a while, then after a short period of time, you go on with other parts of your life. Sure, you go back to worrying every so often, but you don't constantly worry and you don't find it interfering with the rest of your life. With overthinking disorder, however, the worry is all that they can think about and even though they may not worry about the same thing all the time, they're always worried about something.

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If you believe you may suffer from overthinking disorder, 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/mistakes over and over again, so 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

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No two people will experience overthinking disorder 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. This 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 even keeping friends can be difficult with this disorder because you struggle to interact with them. 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 with this disorder 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.

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The truth is, overthinking disorder can affect anything and everything about your life. It can change the way you do things and the way you work with others. It can impact your social life, your personal life, and your work life. What that means is it can start to wear away at you and at the relationships you have with the people around you. For anyone, this can be an extremely difficult situation, and it can definitely create problems in your life.

Unfortunately, this is a disorder that could occur at any time. For someone who has anxiety or any type of anxiety disorder, it can easily become an overthinking disorder 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.

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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 disorder. 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.

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 own home. Not only that but you're going to have more 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.

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