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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.

279 thoughts on “Anxiety and Overthinking Everything”

  1. Hi,

    I’m a 26 year old and I was moving in my new house with my boyfriend. I really was looking forward for this change but all of a sudden anxiety kicked in. I fear tk move and until my anxiety gets better I am not willing to move. It’s been over a month worrying and fearing that this anxiety wont leave me in peace. I am always asking myself why I suddenly changed my mind from moving. I am in the cycle that I am anxious about my anxiety.

    1. Hi Estelle,
      Anxiety can be a trap and a vicious circle — you comment about the cycle of being anxious about your anxiety captures this well! I’m wondering if you’ve heard of adjustment disorder. It’s a (usually) temporary condition caused by change like a move. Even positive change can lead to adjustment disorder. Anxiety is very much a part of it. This article has some information: https://www.healthyplace.com/ptsd-and-stress-disorders/adjustment-disorder/adjustment-disorder-with-anxiety/ If you think it sounds like it might be a possibility, you can talk to your doctor or mental health professional like a therapist. You can deal with both adjustment and anxiety and be able to move into your new house with your boyfriend.

  2. Hi, i’ve suffered with anxiety for many years. last year for a second time i was prescribed citalopram (celexa) and had the dose increased. 6 months on i’m feeling a whole lot better, life feels less stressful, i have more energy and most of the negative thoughts don’t bother me any more.

    My biggest problem at the moment is the chatter/overthinking which has gotten better since the medication but i’m still having a problem switching off to relax. my head just keeps chatting, checking to see if i’m relaxed or “in the moment” it’s especially bad when i try to relax and watch films or tv. i’m a big big film fan and its important for me to be able to get lost in a film and relax. i just get constant questioning and checking but also my head will also at times repeat words being spoken on the screen or start of thinking what i’d say to other people about the film or tv.

    Everyone tells me it’s classic anxiety and it will fade over time but i keep thinking “what if it’s something else” “this will never go”

    I just can’t seem to get out of this cycle.

    Thanks for any help

    1. Hi Mamba,
      It sounds like this mental chatter is starting to really disrupt your life — when it invades things that used to bring you peace and happiness, it definitely is natural to be frustrated and want to do something. Sometimes well-meaning people want to reassure others, like those that are telling you it’s classic anxiety. If your instincts are telling you that it could be something different, follow those instincts. You seem very self-aware. That awareness is a strength you can use to move forward. You might want to start by consulting your doctor. Even though you’re having success with citalopram, there’s a chance that minor dosage adjustments need to be made. Also, working with a therapist might be very helpful, especially since the medication has been working but this issue is lingering. Your doctor, a therapist, or both can help you get yourself out of the cycle.

      1. does it sound like anxiety to you?

        I get a lot of rehearsing conversations, some i’ll probably never have

        I don’t really want to have any changes to my medication as the last 2 or 3 months are the best i’ve felt for a few years.

        1. Hi Mamba,
          The chatter, rehearsing, etc. do sound like they could be anxiety. Anxiety and thoughts like this so often go hand-in-hand. The nature of the thoughts vary depending on the type of anxiety you are experiencing. Also, thoughts like this can be part of other things, too, such as OCD. I would never try to diagnose you! I do think that talking with your doctor or mental health professional would help you find answers — and the right treatment.

  3. Hi,
    I’m 14 years old and honestly worry about everything way too much. I’m in high school and whenever I have a test or assessment coming up i always way overthink it. Last time in a maths exam I knew I got 1 question wrong and literally cried for hours because I though that having 1 Mark taken off my test would lead me to having no job, no future etc. After I realised I was so silly and so annoyed at myself for getting so upset about it. And recently I’ve been feeling physically sick every time I come home because i am worried about a friend who doesn’t eat all that much but the truth is really he’s fine. I really need advice on this it’s stressing me out so much and I know this is the age that these kinds of things start to take over you. Please help me with any advice you have

    1. Hi Alex,
      Anyone who says that teens don’t have stress like adults do either forgot what it was like to be in high school, isn’t acknowledging the way the world has become, or both! Just from the little bit that you wrote, I think you are someone who is pretty driven and who is very caring and compassionate. Those are great qualities, strengths that you will use to get you far. These are also things that can make you more vulnerable to stress, anxiety, and other things that take a toll on mental health and wellbeing. Two things you might want to try (there are more than two things you can do, of course) will probably seem like they conflict at first.

      One: Think about your sense of purpose and a vision for what you want your life to be like. BUT, and this is a biggie, don’t feel that you are tying yourself to this. This is supposed to reduce stress rather than increase it. You are 14 and are beginning to explore what you want to do as an adult. The key word is explore. The purpose of this is to be grounding. With a small beginning of a vision and a plan, you can sort out what you need to go in that general direction. Maths is an important subject, and it’s good to do well. But when you look at your general vision, you can see that missing one point won’t destroy your chances at anything. Look at the requirements for the jobs you’d like. Even if a high grade is important, it’s probably not necessary to score 100% on everything all the time. (It’s not necessary because it’s not possible!).

      2: Let your vision just be there. You can make adjustments to it any time you want to, and you can go to it to remind yourself of what you realistically need to do, but other than that, it doesn’t need to (and shouldn’t) be the main focus of your daily life. Make it a habit to take slow deep breaths throughout the day because that helps calm the brain and body. Pay attention to what is going on right now, in the moment you’re in. When you notice yourself feeling sick because you’re worried about your friend, check in with him. See how he’s doing. When you’re in the moment, you can either respond to a problem that you notice (as opposed to a worry in your head), or you can dismiss a worry because you can see evidence that the worry isn’t based on something real happening right now. This is known as mindfulness. If you’re interested, check out http://www.mindfulnessforteens.com. This is a great resource for dealing with stress and anxiety.

      The anxiety and worry you are experiencing won’t last. You can do things to overcome them.

  4. My best friend since high school (we are in our 40s), is dealing with having to put her Father’s illness. He is in a great facility now, and has ample funds to pay for it, but it was certainly stressful for awhile for her. She has not worked outside of the home in years, but she is a great Mom to three young kids, and while she was always a worrier, it was never all that bad. Since this happened she has developed crippling anxiety and I do not know how to help her. She texts me incessantly with wild scenarios and what ifs. If everything is fine (which it is now) she actually looks for things that could go wrong. I almost feel like she is only comfortable if she is worrying! And none of these things are realistically ever going to happen, and if by some wild chance they did, they are beyond her control. She worries so much it is exhausting for me and for her, and she is struggling to care for her kids. She is very negative like “Oh my kids are going to hate me, and I am going to lose my husband,” because she is taking time to help her Dad. She is constantly worried about being sued, having to pay for her Father, etc. I am a lawyer, and I went through this with my own Father, but nothing I can say can reassure her. To make matters worse, I am the other extreme. I think worry is a waste of time, and am very much the type of person that says if it happens it happens. She is taking an anti anxiety drug that she was put on recently, but clearly it is not working. This has been going on daily for four months. Nothing I say helps her. I have tried just saying it will be okay, just letting her talk, rationalizing with her, but NOTHING works. I am starting to go a bit insane myself. She is like a broken record over and over the same thing. How can I help her? Thanks

    1. Hi Lisa,
      It sounds like you have been a wonderful friend. Listening, being available, reassuring, sharing your professional and personal knowledge are all the “right” things to do. (I typically try to avoid such value-laden words like “right” and “wrong,” but in this case the things you’ve been doing are actions that have been shown to be supportive. Therefore, I’ll use “right.”)

      Sometimes people are resistant to support. It may be that she doesn’t realize that she’s resisting, and it may be that her worries are so intense that they’re all-consuming. Talking about them like this might be the only way she has to deal with them. That doesn’t mean that you have to keep doing what you’ve been doing. That won’t help either one of you.

      It’s okay to point out that you think that she needs professional help, either returning to her doctor about medication, seeing a therapist, or both. Sometimes being direct yet kind about it is the best thing. It can be effective to meet with her in person and give her a list of resources in the community (you can often find them in medical offices, community centers, libraries, and mental health resources offices like NAMI or DBSA). Share your concerns with her. Offering to accompany her to an appointment might be good, but only if it works for you and you think she would appreciate the offer. It’s okay, too, to tell her that you will be there for her as a friend, but that you can’t be her therapist. Situations like these aren’t unusual. The “tough love” approach is sometimes the best thing to do. Even if your friend gets mad, odds are that she won’t stay mad and will be glad that you led her to professional help. You’re clearly a very good friend.

  5. Hello… I do have a questions…
    If I’m overthinking like my girlfriend is mad at me because I think I do something wrong even I didn’t do anything.
    I also feel going nuts if my girlfriend didn’t text me wholeday.
    I also think that I’m not good enough for her and all the negative is already in my mind.
    I encounter this kind of issues when I was 14yrs old. I can’t breath, heart racing, sweating if I’m doing a reporting, reciting. Is this a anxiety??? Went don’t have that here in the Philippines

    1. Hi Thea,
      The physical symptoms you are having sound very much like an anxiety attack or panic attack. The difference between them is that anxiety attacks happen because of fear or excessive worry about something while panic attacks happen “out of the blue” and relate to the fear of having another panic attack.

      Anxiety can get in the way of relationships. It can often be helpful to work with a therapist about the relationship anxiety you describe. If you don’t have access to mental health professionals, there are services available online, such as betterhelp.com and talkspace.com. They can help you with your thoughts and feelings in your relationship.

  6. Hello, I’ve been trying to overcame this anxiety for about over a month now. I have had it in the past and it was much, much worse. I moved to a new state and got married all in a matter of three months. My physical well being has been awful which took a toll on my mental state. Everyone I reach out to says I should seek help, I wake up everyday thinking it’s going to be a struggle. What should I do? Helllp!

    1. Hi Nikki,
      You’ve experienced a lot of changes recently (plus have dealt with health issues)! Even positive changes can create anxiety and adjustment struggles. This article is about adjustment disorder and anxiety: https://www.healthyplace.com/ptsd-and-stress-disorders/adjustment-disorder/adjustment-disorder-with-anxiety/), and at the end there is a link to other helpful articles about adjustment disorder. The number one thing to know right now is that it’s temporary. If you’d like, check out the information in the article. That might help you decide whether to seek professional help. Working with a therapist, even for a short time, can be very effective in helping you overcome anxiety, adjustment problems, and more.

  7. I have a problem or issue, i don’t know how to call it, anxiety related.

    I will be very short in details and it goes like this:
    1) i am a very logical, rational and resonable person
    2) everything i say, do or someone else says or do i ANALYZE
    3) this analyze is very very stressfull and it blocks me from doing the important things in life.
    4) When i analyze i mean: syntactic analyze, rational analyze, logic analyze and so on…

    What are your suggestions about this?

    1. Hi Alexander John,
      Analyzing in this way can be exhausting, and when it blocks you from what’s important, it can be a big problem. Have you ever visited with a medical professional or mental health professional about this? This doesn’t mean that there is something wrong. It would be a way of investigating to get to the bottom of it. Different things can contribute to the type of analyzing you mention, and if you can pinpoint something, you can better target it so you can live your life free from this overthinking. You can also use your logic and rationality to your advantage. Some people find it useful to compartmentalize their thoughts (others need to work to stop doing this — it all depends on the individual person). Create a “filing system” in your mind for different types of thoughts. When you are listening to someone and notice yourself analyzing, visualize yourself filing your thoughts away and locking the filing cabinet. If you want to go back to the thoughts later, you can, but if you don’t want to, you can keep them locked. This is just a visualization exercise that can help you gain control over your analyzing thoughts. It can feel weird initially, and it takes some practice. Essentially what you’re doing is training your brain to just tune in and ignore the tendency to analyze. You might prefer a different technique. Using your own logic could be very helpful.

  8. Hi
    I have been overthinking for 3 months and I have problems with my family, friends and boyfriend. I was moody and so many emotional, I have been crying for 3 months because sometimes I get emotional to no reason. It’s hard for me because when overthinking that how people treat me and make me hurt even more. I don’t know who am I. I still hurt for what people hating me. Because I fight with them and fight with for no reason because I was angry and hating myself too much. But I don’t understand why I have been emotional and overthinking for past 3 months because I never had like that before. I really need help to how get over with emotional and overthinking. I just want to go back to normal life.

    1. Hi Sasha,
      What a long three months you must have had — and are still experiencing. Of course you want to return to the way things were! And it’s possible. It sounds like the root of the overthinking is emotions and relationships. Being able to describe this is great, because you can pinpoint the problems and start addressing them right away. With what you’re describing, it’s very helpful to work directly with a mental health professional. This link will take you to a list of articles with information about types of mental health treatment, where to find it, and more. Just scroll to the “Mental Illness Treatment” heading, and click on the one(s) that sound helpful to you. https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/mental-health-information-toc/

  9. Hi Neelam,
    It sounds like you are a very caring, compassionate person. Those are wonderful strengths to have and can help you have strong, close relationships. You don’t want to give that up! But like all strengths, these can get in your way, as you are seeing. You are already a step ahead because you recognize that this is happening and how it’s interfering in your life and happiness. Now you can focus on shifting your thoughts. Having anxiety about the health of people you care about is actually common — you’re not alone. I actually wrote an article addressing this very thing. It might have ideas that will help you. Here is the link: https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/11/anxiety-over-a-loved-ones-health-dos-and-donts/

  10. Hello.ma’am
    I m addicted to over thinking when it comes to heath issues of anyone in my family.. I just reach to the maximum wid very little of anything.. last month my Lo was not well for 10 days.. I was going through very tensed situation where she had small viral infection.. now when after 15 days she got cold now mild fever again and my thoughts are skyrocketing as why she fell ill within 15 days.. my very tensed and feel lost in my bad thoughts..
    This habit is killing me and my wonderful present not future..
    Ma’am plz advise. How to cope up with this

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