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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.

132 thoughts on “Anxiety and Overthinking Everything”

  1. I dont have panic attacks but I’ve been thinking embarrassing moments over and over again from stuff that happened in grade school but i eventually got over the embarrassment. However recently i’ve been lashing out more especially at people who make me overthink and become embrrassed. For example, someone could point something out abouy what i posted and i would recklessly text them and assume the worst because I didnt want to feel bad about myself. Also. Ive been thinking about everything i do from talking to an old friend and saying the wrong thing to imagining scenarios about what could have happened if I wasnt too careful with something. I can’t live like this anymore i dont know how to deal with this And i’m sure it’s not as serious as other people’s conditions but it drives me crazy to the point where whenever i’m alone and thinking i want to bang my head against the wall to make it stop.

    1. Hello X,
      It’s important for you (and so many others, because you’re not alone in feeling this way) to know that you never have to compare your experiences with others. Your experiences are making things difficult for you, and that is what matters. Next, while I can’t diagnose, I will share my observation that much of what you describe sounds like social anxiety. Have you looked into that? Thinking about being embarrassed or judged by others is at the heart of social anxiety, and it causes a great deal of overthinking in the way that you described. You might want to visit with a therapist or look into social anxiety information on your own (HealthyPlace has a wealth of information, including social anxiety tests). If you feel you are experiencing social anxiety, you can target your treatment/self-help efforts accordingly and no longer feel like you’re being driven crazy.

  2. I’ve been dealing with this for 6 years now. I am currently on 40 mg citalopram daily. Recently I feel off after taking my dosage. Warm tingly feelings in chest. Ice pick headaches. Tension in neck and shoulders. It’s a constant cycle. I have my honeymoon coming up and also dealing with a hiatus hernia which I feel contributes to the issue. I’m fearful of going on the trip and being in a bad state for 3 weeks. Any help would be appreciated!!!!

    1. Hi Layne,
      If you haven’t already done so, an important step is to consult with your doctor about the changes you’ve experienced regarding your medication. It’s also a good idea to check out the physical symptoms you’ve described in case they relate to a different medical condition. Your doctor might also be able to give you some tips for feeling well on your honeymoon. This could go a long way in reducing anxiety so you can enjoy the time with your spouse.

  3. Hi, I have been suffering with anxiety for years and 5 month ago started take ssri for it. I have just started counselling for it. My worse partl since taking the meds is that I feel like I’m having obsessive thoughts. I focus on something as simple as an orniment and that’s all I think About! I have through stuff away to relieve my anxiety and I just focus on something else and obcess over that! Is this normal anxiety or something else? I feel like it’s the only thing stopping my progress. When I feel calm and think about it I get all anxious again and start reasoning with myself! Any advice would be great. Thankyou

    1. Hi Rose,
      Sometimes, trying to reason with our thoughts (or argue with them or find evidence to the contrary of our thoughts) can make things worse. When we try to do this, we actually reinforce our thoughts/thought patterns because that’s what we are paying attention to. I know this firsthand because I’ve been there! I have found (personally and professionally) that two approaches can be quite helpful for overthinking/obsessing: solution-focused therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy. YOu might want to consider looking into them to see what you think. These articles offer a good introduction: Five Solution-Focused Ways to Beat Anxiety (https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2014/06/five-solution-focused-ways-to-beat-anxiety/) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): Stop Avoiding Anxiety! (https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/07/stop-avoiding-anxiety-acceptance-and-commitment-therapy/)

      1. Thankyou very much for your reply. It’s so hard at the moment I feel like im.going crazy at times! If heard of scary intrusive thoughts whilst anxious as if had them my self but because I’m obsessing/Having intrusive thoughts over random things scares me more as it’s so unusual!? Do you think it’s an obsession or more intrusive? Thankyou

        1. Thoughts you are describing are very difficult and indeed scary. One of the criteria defining obsessive thoughts is that they are intrusive. An intrusive thought is one that forces its way in and is unwanted. You aren’t intentionally creating the thoughts. An obsessive thought is typically anxiety based and is one that occurs over and over again. Obsessive thoughts are also intrusive thoughts. And I’m sure you want them to stop! It might be a good idea to check in with a doctor or therapist. They can help you get to the bottom of what’s going on as well as help start treatment. When it comes to obsessions and intrusive thoughts, it’s often most helpful to work with someone in person. Do know that you aren’t stuck with these thoughts forever.

          1. Sometimes I wonder of I’m even have g these thoughts or just working g myself up so much I think I am if that makes sence? I often wonder what I’m thinking them blame my obsession? If never suffered with this before until o started my meds (citalopram) I’m having therapy but just phone based at the minute. I had a good few weeks where nothing bothered me then all of a sudden I’m a mess again! Thanks

            Hi again, Rose,
            Have you mentioned to your doctor that your obsessions/overthinking began when you started medication? This could be a very undesirable side effect. Your doctor can evaluate this and possibly change dosages or the type of medication.

  4. Hello , hoping to share thoughts and see that there are others feeling the same . I can’t really pinpoint when my worrying / anxiety began , but I do recognise that it’s got worse .
    For me I think a combination of things has added up tonne feeling this day in day out . I’ve realised it’s exhausting , my mind never stops , the only break I get is when I’m asjsro . The moment I wake I feel tense , knotted stomach & a desire to just not face things that day ahead . Being a working mum I have to but a lot of mornings are a struggle to try to remain composed and not sit fretting about what’s to come that day . Being divorced for 5 years and on my own with my daughter means there isn’t someone to discuss worries or little things with at the end of a day . Nobody to put things into perspective and tell me ” it’s not worth worrying and it’ll be fine ” . Despite telling yourself this it doesn’t really have the sand effect !
    For me the daily jobs / events / tasks that seem small become harder when there is only myself to do all the decision making , choosing , sorting . I worry I won’t get it all done , I worry that I do things wrong , I worry ill run out of time each day , work pressure adds on , I worry Ill forget places / classes I have to get my daughter to ( I never do ) , being in all places at once on time , I get anxious driving in case something happens , lost , car breaks down etc … on & on it goes .. my only haven is running , the only thing that relaxes me & where I don’t worry . I find it impossible to relax and am even worrying about a holiday abroad because it’s myself and my daughter alone . It makes me so anxious I get to the point where I don’t want to go … it’s difficult to rationalise it to yourself .. I’m hoping to try to find a Pilates or yoga class which may help ? Has anyone else had similar experiences ?

    1. Hi Lou, I” in exactly the same situation. Your post could have been written by me.. it’s not easy but try not to juggle to many different things each day.. the linden method helps.. or feel free to contact me. Big hugs x

  5. Hello well under high levels of stress I too suffer with anxiety and depression. I have recently been having paranoia due to over thinking, negative thoughts and feeling like I am going crazy because already for the last three months I have had several moments where I think I am hearing whispers, or a faint womens voice I can’t make out what it’s saying or it’s purpose but it is making me freak out and get into straight panic mode. I have researched and found that others have experienced this to and I am not alone. Although I have not quite found a solution to help me with issue in my finding I ran into this blog. If someone can help me and let me know how to ignore this or stop this it would great. I do not like this part of Anxiety although I have suffered from anxiety for the last 7 years this is new symptoms and I do not know how to deal with it. I am not on any meds nor am I seeing a doctor. Just a women in search for her healing.

  6. I just seem to spend all my waking day thinking about my anxiety. Checking myself on how I am feeling, wondering when the next panic attack will happen, and then at night I’m thinking about my insomnia, if I’m going to sleep at all, and if not, how it will affect my anxiety the next day. I seem to be stuck in this circle of thinking about nothing but my anxiety.

    1. Hi Jamie,
      That is an incredibly frustrating cycle (to put it mildly) — I’ve been in it before. Two approaches that can be useful for this awful cycle are solution-focused therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy (both steer people away from checking how we’re feeling/thinking, which is an important step). If you are interested in learning a bit about them, these two links will give you a start: https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/07/stop-avoiding-anxiety-acceptance-and-commitment-therapy/ and https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2014/06/five-solution-focused-ways-to-beat-anxiety/

  7. Hi, my name is kaylee and I’m actually looking up self help videos for anxiety. I’ve never been one to think of myself as having a mental illness but Its become a problem lately. I’m constantly worrying and overthinking about anything and everything. So much so that I burst out in tears for something that hasn’t even happend yet and probably never will. I randomly shut down and refuse to deal with any real problems because I can’t get out of my head, I can’t even explain it properly because I have no real reason to feel this way, which is the most frustrating. My head feels like it’s going to explode and I’m exhausted. I don’t know how to cope with it in a healthy matter. It’s gotten to the point that i can’t sleep at night because of my constant thoughts so I’ve turned to taking Advil pm or any other aide to sleep. I know that’s not healthy but it’s the only way that I can sleep without interruption. It’s never been this bad but lately it seems all I can do is stress and over think everything and I feel like I’m not enjoying life because of it. It’s even gotten to be a problem In my relationship, my boyfriend is patient and kind but i know he must be feeling frustrated by now because one minute I’m fine and the next I’m upset about something thats abstract or vague because theirs no real logic behind whatever it is I’m worrying about and I just feel insane and i’m worried that it’ll become a bigger problem than it already is.

    1. Hi Kaylee,
      What you’re experiencing does sound incredibly frustrating. Don’t worry about the term “mental illness.” All that means is that there are specific things researchers have found that relate to the brain. It helps doctors (and everyone else) categorize symptoms so they can best treat them. It’s similar to terms like oncology (the global term for cancer — cancers are categorized so they can be efficiently addressed). Anyway, an important starting point is to see a doctor to rule out other things that could be causing your symptoms. He/she can also consult with you about sleeping as well as make a plan for the next steps. This way, it won’t, as you say, become a bigger problem than it already is.

  8. Hi! I get nervous like most people, but for the past year or so, I’ve noticed myself overthinking. I would overthink things most of my life, but just recently it’s gotten to a point where I get unreasonably anxious when I overthink. It seems to take a toll on my physical health at times too, with nausea and just constant dizziness everytime I get in this anxious state. It wasn’t until I read this article that I realized that I most likely have some form of anxiety. My mom won’t exactly understand when I say that I want to talk to someone. I’ve always been a very expressive person, and I just can’t see myself getting better without talking to someone! I know that talking to a professional is most likely not the only valid option I have, but I seriously need help understanding what I’m going through. When I’m in these bouts of panic, it’s very hard for me to bring myself back to reality. I find myself making these situations I’m in so much bigger than they most likely are, and I normally end up whole heartedly believing that I am about to die. I assume this is normal? That’s basically all I know. What I want to know more about is whether or not this will go away? I’m just so scared all the time. It’s hurting my relationships with the people I love.

    1. Hello V,
      You nailed it. This is anxiety, and it inserts itself into lives just as you described. The short answer to your question is yes, it will go away. The rest of the answer is this: it’s a process. You’ve already begun the process: you have great insight into your anxiety, and you are seeking information and help. Working with a therapist can be incredibly helpful, especially for people who need and like to talk things through. If it’s not an option right now (if you’re in school and your school has counselors, that can be a good starting point that doesn’t always require parental permission — depending on age), there are apps that are designed to help people with anxiety as well as self-help books. Your library might even have some. Understanding your anxiety, knowing what you do want your life to be like (focusing on what you don’t want, on the anxiety, keeps you stuck in it), and finding assistance in the form of counseling, apps, or books, is an effective plan for getting rid of anxiety and taking back your life.

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