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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.

203 thoughts on “Anxiety and Overthinking Everything”

  1. Hi maam! I am just concerned with a friend of mine, he has been experiencing this anxiety/overthinking wherein he needs to solve a problem because if he dont then there will be a consequence like something bad will happen. It happens to him all the time and he now feels very exhausted and worried about it. Is there any explanation about his situation or any solution to it? Thanks!!

    1. Hello Ei,
      I would never try to give a diagnosis this way or even try to fully explain because without knowing him, my doing that could be really harmful. So this isn’t a diagnosis! 🙂 But I’ll make the observation that what you describe could be related to obsessive-compulsive disorder. OCD is complex, and there are many criteria that have to be met for OCD to be diagnosed. What I noticed were his thoughts about negative consequences happening if he doesn’t complete a problem. While this can only be diagnosed by a professional, you and he might want to do some reading about OCD to see if it is fitting. If not, then you’ve ruled something out and can go back and look at other symptoms. HealthyPlace has a lot of articles/info on OCD. This link takes you to the page that has all of the articles linked: https://www.healthyplace.com/ocd-related-disorders/

  2. Hi Tanya, I love that this article is old however your still replying to so many people. My anxiety took an ugly turn a couple of months ago with intrusive thoughts and those have subsided but now I can not stop thinking I might be going crazy. I know this can be another part of my OCD but it is giving me headaches and I can’t stop crying. I just want my life back before I got anxiety in July. Never had if before so I am hoping I can over come these thoughts. I have kids who need me.

    1. Hi Carina! I’m always happy to reply. I’m glad that people are still reading this article. 🙂 You are right. Feeling like you’re going crazy can be a part of anxiety, including the anxiety of OCD. I can make a bold prediction that you will get your life back because you have a sense of purpose — you have kids, you have a life that you want “back.” It is having purpose that is a big part of recovery. That said, overcoming anxiety isn’t necessarily quick. It’s challenging but possible. Have you heard of an app called nOCD? It’s a free app that helps in OCD treatment. More info is here: http://bit.ly/2g2ws6y. Also, cognitive behavior therapy (http://bit.ly/2io31u6) and acceptance and commitment therapy (https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/07/stop-avoiding-anxiety-acceptance-and-commitment-therapy/) can be very helpful in taking back your life and thoughts from anxiety. The links are to informative articles about each that might offer a good starting point. You can do things that will get you back to where you want to be.

  3. I dont know if this is my anxiety, bipolar, or ptsd. I am over thinking situations and second guessing myself on things that I know are true. I over think day and night all of the time. Im exhausted. Can you possibly tell me hats going on?

    1. Hi Dylan,
      Overthinking seems to be a human trait. Then, get anxiety, bipolar disorder, and PTSD in the mix, and it can quickly feel chaotic and out of control. It’s definitely exhausting. Have you considered working with a professional therapist? Doing so can help you get to the root(s) of the problem and then find ways to overcome it that are tailored to your unique personality and situation? While you are finding the right therapist, you can do things like practicing mindfulness to keep your attention focused on what you are doing in the moment rather than remaining focused on racing thoughts. All three of the things you’re dealing with are likely contributing to overthinking. It’s a lot! So do consider working with a professional.

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