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Anxiety and Overthinking Everything

Anxiety and overthinking tend to be evil partners. One of the horrible hallmarks of any type of anxiety disorder is the tendency to overthink everything. The anxious brain is hypervigilant, always on the lookout for anything it perceives to be dangerous or worrisome. I’ve been accused of making problems where there aren’t any. To me, though, there are, indeed, problems. Why? Because anxiety causes me to overthink everything. Anxiety makes us overthink everything in many different ways, and the result of this overthinking isn’t helpful at all. Fortunately, anxiety and overthinking everything doesn’t have to be a permanent part of our existence. 

Ways Anxiety Causes Overthinking

An effect of any type of anxiety is overthinking everything. There are common themes to the way anxiety causes overthinking. Perhaps this generic list will remind you of specific racing thoughts you experience and help you realize that you’re not alone in overthinking everything because of anxiety.

  • Obsessing over what we should say/should have said/did say/didn’t say (common in social anxiety)
  • Worrying incessantly about who we are and how we are measuring up to the world (common in social and performance anxiety)
  • Creating fearful what-if scenarios about things that could go wrong for ourselves, loved ones, and the world (common in generalized anxiety disorder)
  • Wild, imagined results of our own wild, imagined faults and incompetencies (all anxiety disorders)
  • Fear of having a panic attack in public and possibly thinking that you can’t leave home because of it (panic disorder with or without agoraphobia)
  • Worrying about a multitude of obsessive thoughts, sometimes scary ones and thinking about them constantly (obsessive-compulsive disorder)
  • Thinking — overthinking — a tumbling chain of worries, vague thoughts, and specific thoughts (all anxiety disorders)

Result of Anxiety and Overthinking

With anxiety, not only are these thoughts (and more) running through our brains, but they are always running through our brains, non-stop, endlessly. Like a gerbil hooked up to an endless drip of an energy drink, they run and run and wheel around in one place, going absolutely nowhere. Day and night, the wheel squeaks.

Over-thinking everything is a horrid part of anxiety disorders. Over-thinking everything creates more anxiety. This tip helps stop over-thinking. Check it out.Anxiety and overthinking everything makes us both tired and wired. One result of the thinking too much that comes with anxiety is that we are often left feeling physically and emotionally unwell. Having these same anxious messages run through our head everywhere we go takes its toll.

Further, another dangerous result of anxiety and overthinking everything is that we start to believe what we think. After all, if we think it, it’s real, and if we think it constantly, it’s very real. Right? No. This is a trick anxiety plays. Anxiety causes overthinking, but with anxiety, these thoughts aren’t always trustworthy.

You have the power and the ability to interfere in anxiety’s overthinking everything. It’s a process that involves many steps, but a step you can take right now to slow down that gerbil is to have something with you or around you to divert your attention. Rather than arguing with your thoughts or obsessing over them, gently shift your attention onto something else, something neutral. By thinking about something insignificant, you weaken anxiety’s ability to cause you to overthink everything.

I explain this further in the below video. I invite you to tune in.

Let’s connect. I blog here. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. My mental health novels, including one about severe anxiety, are here

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of four critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges as well as a self-help book on acceptance and commitment therapy. She speaks nationally about mental health, and she has a curriculum for middle and high schools. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

240 thoughts on “Anxiety and Overthinking Everything”

  1. Hi. I am male 34 living in India. I have severe anxiety talking with even people I know. They can be my senior cousins or my elder uncles. Whoever is outside of my family. I fear mostly teasing and pulling a leg thinking that they will not like that considering they are elder to me. I am happy when I am natural. However, anxiety stops me from enjoying the moment fully because it keeps me shut, it keeps me from conversing at my full potential. I have no ill will but I fear the reactions of my cousins and uncle/aunt. I fear that they would react harshly when I tease them. And say that it is inappropriate. I feel like being admonished like a kid. I have always kept to myself mostly. And remained anxious for so many years since childhood.
    Please help

    1. Hi Michael,
      Sometimes (many times) family can cause great anxiety for many different reasons. When family members, especially older ones in a special role, judge us negatively, it can cause anxiety and withdrawal. Sometimes, putting family opinions aside temporarily (you can still respect them in their role) and exploring who you are and how you want to be can reduce anxiety. You have a chance to know yourself without feeling wrong about your discoveries. One way to do this is to examine your unique strengths and find ways you want to use them. Check out http://www.viacharacter.org for a high-quality self-test and information. Also, because you have been dealing with this for so long and because it comes from family, it can be helpful to work with a therapist. If you don’t have easy access to a therapist, you can try an online service such as betterhelp.com or talkspace.com. Truly, you don’t have to be stuck with this severe anxiety forever.

  2. Hi Michele,
    Know that you aren’t alone in this. So many people have a hard time around what you describe that there are indeed books to help. The other reason there are books is because it is possible to overcome this and thrive. If it were hopeless, there wouldn’t be any books!

    Something that stood out to me in what you wrote was the fact that you have a new job and have recently experienced traumas. While I would never dish out a diagnosis, I will say that these are elements of adjustment disorder or even adjustment-related stress if it’s not a full-blown disorder. Even positive change can lead to adjustment stress/disorder. This is something that is temporary when you have help dealing with it. That help can be in book form. There aren’t many books about adjustment disorder out there. One good (but short) one is Adjustment Disorder: When You Can’t Cope with Change by J.B. Snow. Learn more here: http://amzn.to/2FkS7Pq. That title sounds a bit off-putting in my opinion. But if you can get past the harsh “When you can’t cope with change” part, the information is good.

    Another good title to look into is Thriving with Social Anxiety: Daily Strategies for Overcoming Anxiety and Building Self Confidence by Hattie Cooper.

    Another one that is helpful with overthinking, self-confidence, adjustment, and more is Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 Steps: http://amzn.to/2FlaPqu. I should disclose that I am the author of this one. However, I make nothing from the sales and have nothing to gain at all by telling you about this book. I believe strongly in acceptance and commitment therapy so I’m just listing this with the other two.

    I hope this list gives you a good start. You’re on the right track already. You’ve taken two important steps: you decided you want to break your current patterns (that’s a big decision that not everyone makes), and you’re seeking information to do it. Keep at it!

  3. I am 30 years old, and I have recently changed careers. I’m starting to see very negative patterns of thinking where my job performance is concerned. I’ve been through a few traumatic events in recent years (from being told I had performance issues job wise to being stalked), and I find myself consistently overthinking what I and other people say and do. I have a hard time trusting my co workers and opening up to them about work related things. I am constantly worried that I am going to do the wrong thing and be fired. I have similar issues with relationships as well, but those are more rooted in insecurity and feeling like I don’t have anything to offer another person. I have a tendency to pull people close then push them away.

    I am looking for books or techniques that will help me break these patterns of negative thoughts and over come my over thinking. I think I’d be a happier and healthier person. Previous therapists haven’t always been helpful, and I am not in a position in my life to be able to afford therapy. Any advice you give would be greatly appreciated.

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