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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.

257 thoughts on “Anxiety and Overthinking Everything”

  1. I’m 69 male going through sevre anxiety and dipression( MDD and GAD) besides many physical issues like sevre eyes and digestion and body/joint pains and headache issues.
    My mental sickness became treatment resistant as so many AD tried but nothing help. Sleepless ness now is major problem. I did CBT more then 12 sessions and even ECT six sessions, nothing help. Right now going through sevre emotional stress and anxiety with completly racing mind with nagative thoughts. I can’t stop it inspite all efforts. I can’t sleep also for many nights, even taking Clonazipan 1.25mg at night but it stoped helping to sleep. I don’t know what to do and how to relax for a while. Seriously needs your guidance and help. My body feels and remained under sensation 24/7 with a feeling that some thing burning running in my blood veins…. I really feel a current like feeling contineously. Now fed up and tired. Feeling helpless, hopeless, worthless, sleepless, supportless, isolated, clueless…. not able to think or get of the bed and house. Due side effects dry eye n other eye related issues with digestion issues are adding further fuel to existing condition. Further my mind multiply every little things by 1000?times and fuel my anxiety, stress and worries. Off course I have some sevre family problems with my married children with whom I n my wife live as dependant. My wife is also very sick. My younger son and his wife are very sick due car accident this week…. these all things frustrat me too much and I can’t think anything.
    I’m sorry, you may edit my moderate and edit my comments bcz I m sure you understand where I’m coming from and what is my current position, issues and possible solutions and help. Kindly help me Taniya, I seriously needs your help. Email me with your reply asap. God bless you. Thanks giving holidays passed with lots of pains and now Christmas and new year holidays are ahead and my life will be miserable besides my sickness will be additional problems for my families. Help me please.

    1. Hello Momo7,
      I’m sorry to read of all that you are experiencing. It sounds like you have some long-standing difficulties and now new ones added plus a difficult time of year. This can make everything seem insurmountable. Sorting this out with a therapist could be extremely helpful. In-person is always great, but it’s not always possible. There are also online services like GoodTherapy.org or TalkSpace.com. In the meantime, of course you want to start feeling better right away. I have a question for you to think about: If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing, what would you change? What would be better, and how would you know it is better? Now, what small things can you do every day to make that one thing improve? (Okay, that was more than one question!) The idea behind this is that you get to start doing something, even if it’s small, right away to start making things better. Also, it helps you prioritize and make a series of small goals. It can be very overwhelming and nearly impossible to address everything all at once. But by breaking it up into manageable goals, you can make improvements that add up to a big difference. You absolutely can get better!

  2. Hello Tanya! how are you? i was wondering if i could have some of your spear time because i’m frustrated with the excessive thinking and anxiety, and like you said I always think someone is looking at me or is just staring at me then i turn and they are not. I also think a lot during class its been happening for years now and now im in high school and i need to pay attention but i just can’t i try to pay attention yet i can’t and its bringing my grades down. I just have tried so much to stop the thinking im so frustrated I’ve just given up i feel horrible and i feel like their is no other way my grades are droppping and i have gotten a therapist but she’s not familiar with the overthinking and were coming up with ways to fix it. please please please help me i don’t know what to do anymore please!

  3. Please reply to this. I have always been overthinking but I just noticed it grows with me as I get older. I am 29 y now and I can tell this is the worst anxiety feelings I ever had. It affects me physically. I have headache all day. I feel nausea. It just won’t stop and there is nothing particular that I am worried about. I don’t enjoy things anymore and I feel I might be depressed. I tried to talk to my family about it but they laughed at me. No one actually cared. My biggest fears are two: failures and death. I just can’t take my mind over these two and I think my fear of them is killing my joy and happiness in everything I do. When I think of death I am always afraid of losing the people I love in my life. It’s not common where I live to openly talk about feelings or seek a doctor’s help. I just don’t know what to do. Do you think taking medicine like xanaxs helps in my situation?

    1. Hi Ileana,
      I’m sorry you didn’t receive a positive reaction from your family when you tried to talk to them. Please don’t let this stop you from seeking help. Have you looked into online counseling, such as GoodTherapy.org or TalkSpace.com (there are others as well). Not everyone can easily go to a doctor or therapist, and these services offer a way to do it when there are barriers in the way. These services are given by qualified professional therapists. It might be worth looking into. As far as medication, I can’t assess whether it would be helpful for you. Each person is unique, and everyone reacts differently to medication, plus there are so many different medications for anxiety and depression. Doctors and a small handful of other healthcare professionals are the only ones who can safely help with medication. Perhaps look into online therapy and see if seeing a doctor for medication would enhance therapy. This anxiety and possible depression probably feel miserable now, but they don’t have to last forever.

  4. Hi Tanya,

    Thank you for this post. I think I have been experiencing anxiety as far back as I can remember. The thing is I was sexually abused by a very close family member when I was very young and so I don’t know if that’s where this depression/anxiety stems from. Even the rain bothers me. I worry about everything that’s going on in the world. Its like I don’t know who I am. I just need to find myself so I can live a meaningful life.

    Love, Shan

    1. Hi Shan,
      Anxiety and depression can indeed stem from the abuse you experienced. In counseling, there are different attitudes, stemming from different things research indicates (there are no single, simple answers when it comes to humans!). Some believe that it’s important to resolve issues from the past abuse before moving forward. Others say that’s not important and can be harmful. I think both have a degree of truth depending on the person. To me, it also seems like you have found your own path to dealing with anxiety and depression, and you might not realize how important your words are! You said that you don’t know who you are and you need to find yourself so you can find a meaningful life. Right on!!! 🙂 Your words resonate with me because I really believe in that approach. What happened to you is terrible, Give yourself a chance (and time) to explore yourself/your life. What brings you meaning? What are your values and passions? What little things can you do every day to incorporate them into your life, piece by piece. You just might find that you replace anxiety and depression with purpose and joy. (A good starting point might be to look at your character strengths. Check out http://www.viacharacter.org/www/ if you’d like to know more about your strengths.

  5. I have always been a worry wart but this summer it really consumed me. My son had an xray and it read it was bad on line. I started reading all different articles and called different dentist offices. It made me a nervous wreck, I think I had a panic attack at night. I had anxiety about 5 years ago but some how got over it. When I had the panic attack it scared me and I got scared that I didn’t want to feel like last time. I went to the doctor this time and she gave me meds, (xanax, prozac that I took for a month and effexor that I only took for two days. I don’t like taking meds. I don’t know if it was the meds or anxiety but my mind wont stop racing. I’m not worry about the xrays now but I feel like I’m getting depressed and don’t care (that is giving me more anxiety). How can I go from caring so much to this in three months. Do you think I will ever get back to myself?

    1. Hi Kim,
      I can confidently say that yes, I do think you will get back to yourself. It probably doesn’t feel like it right now, but this anxiety won’t last. You got over it before, and you can do it again. You might not know exactly what you did last time, but there were things that you did that worked. Typically, anxiety doesn’t just randomly disappear. It might be worthwhile to think back to that time and see if you can identify things you did that worked, even if they’re small. It’s usually the small things that are the most powerful. The following link will take you to our section on anxiety self help. Down the left side is a list of all of the anxiety self-help articles. There might be information in there that could be useful to you. Be patient with yourself as you go through this process of beating anxiety. https://www.healthyplace.com/self-help/anxiety/what-is-anxiety-self-help/

      One last thing. Anxiety does make people go from one extreme to the other in a matter of months. That’s one of the things that is so horrible about it. Remember that you do care. This anxiety is just blocking your positive feelings because it has taken over. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t the same person underneath!

  6. Hi. I’m sharvani. I keep overthinking about everything single thing. Anything that sets me off I keep obsessing for hours and days. I’ve had obsessions about a matter for months and even years…. In a drawn out matter of course. These obsessions may or may not have to do anything.with me. It disturbs me. Makes me depressed. Disrupts everyday tasks

    1. Hi Sharvani,
      Obsessive thoughts can really take over, exactly as you describe. Because they’re so disruptive, they aren’t easy to get rid of. But the good news is that you can, over time, get rid of them and live your life without being so affected by them. Working with a therapist is typically the most effective way to deal with obsessive thoughts. If you don’ t have easy access to professional therapists, there are good options becoming available online such as talkspace.com or goodtherapy.org. With support, you can overcome obsessive thoughts.

  7. Hi there! I am sorry to disturb . But everyday I am overthinking about small things. Which really distract me, affecting my focus and my quality of life. Making me feel anxious everyday. May I know if there is any more tips that you can teach me how to overcome overthinking and anxiety .

  8. 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/

  9. 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.

  10. 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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