How can I stop overthinking everything and sending myself into a spiral?

For example, my boyfriend is going through a depressive state and he states that it has nothing to do with me at all but I somehow feel like it has everything to do with me. I have talked to him about it and i still feel like it has something to do with me because I’m overthinking it.
Asked by Lynne

A lot of people struggle with "overthinking everything". People who tend to be more empathetic tend to take on responsibility for others' emotions because they feel them so strongly. Also, we tend to want to be able to "fix things" naturally, and when we're unable to, we can feel helpless and like we've failed the other person in some way.

Rumination (or the repetitive negative thoughts that occur over and over again in our heads) is associated with things such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. A lot of times the way we interact with others is engrained in us during early childhood, so typically when I work with others, I explore that area. The relationships they had, roles in the household, etc. If you can think back to what your experiences were, you may be able to find the root cause and challenge those core beliefs.

One technique you can try to begin challenging these thoughts is "Checking The Facts". This is a skill in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy for Emotional Regulation. Often there is an emotion associated with a thought. First, you will ask, "What emotion do I want to change?", then, "What event happened to trigger this emotion?", "What are my assumptions, thoughts, and interpretations (or my perception) about the what happened?", "What threat do I perceive, and is my perception plausible (is it likely to happen)?", "What catastrophe do I believe is going to happen if I believe this thought?", and "Does what I'm feeling and the intensity of emotion actually fit the facts and make the thought true?". Often times, we find that our perceptions are flawed or distorted, and through this skill, we are able to reduce the anxiety, depression, or other negative emotions we're experiencing that are associated with "overthinking" and faulty beliefs.

Another thing you can do is called thought-stopping. The steps involved in this process begin with identifying the thought. For example: "It is my fault that my boyfriend is depressed". You simply acknowledge this thought. The second step is to "stop" the thought. You can do this through putting your hand up and saying "Stop!" out loud. This interrupts your thinking. The next step is to replace the thought with an alternative positive cognition, such as, "I care about my boyfriend, and I want to see him happy".

I hope this information and these skills are of benefit to you, and I hope to be able to work with you soon!



(M.Ed., LPC, NCC)