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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.

158 thoughts on “Anxiety and Overthinking Everything”

  1. Hi Tanya, I don’t know if I have anxiety or I’m overthinking, but I’m starting to believe I’m in a simulation. I don’t know if I’m in one or not and I don’t know if everyone and everything I sense is part of my imagination or “simulation”. I have no way to prove I’m in one or not and no one has a way to prove I’m in one or not.

    I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t understand anything and keep asking “why?”. I even ask myself, “Why do I ask “why”?”
    I’m in a repetitive loop that I can’t get out of. What do you recommend?

    1. Hi Andres,
      Have you heard of depersonalization and derealization? Depersonalization is a feeling that you aren’t real, and derealization is the feeling that the world around you isn’t real. Both are a form of dissociation, where someone temporarily separates from ordinary awareness or consciousness. These can be part of dissociative disorders, but they can also occur in other contexts. They can be a symptom of anxiety. This info might be helpful if you are interested in learning more: http://mayocl.in/2xZYNOr

      Alternately, thinking about what is real can be part of existential anxiety, or anxiety that relates to our very human existence. Existential anxiety can be really troubling, which makes people worry about it, which keeps people stuck in the thoughts. Here is a bit of info: http://bit.ly/2xlUkIT

      I would never tell you that either one of these is definitely what’s going on with you. Visiting with a doctor or therapist is a really good idea because they can get a sense of the bigger picture and form a deeper understanding of you. Even if you don’t think derealization or existentialism quite fit what you’re experiencing, that’s okay. Asking questions and looking into things is an important part of the process, and by doing so, you’re already taking charge of your forward movement.

  2. What I need to do to stop analyzing everything in my life and specially the past. I always feel that i need to analyze everything to really understand who i am now and that’s really exhausting, when everything is going well and i feel that iam controlling everything I found myself starting all that again and I find myself trapped on my own thoughts.

  3. Hi , aim Not sure If I have anxiety but from what I’ve read I believe I do , Because I litterally Overthink everything no matter what the situation is & it hurts my relationship by me doing this & it’s also hurting me

  4. Hi I have been suffering from anxiety for.momths now since my cardio version and heart ablation I have all types of symptoms pains in the chest legs head hands all.over and.i also feel as if .not breathing I need some guidance in wat to do as this is been going on for.months and effect s my daily life .

    1. Hello bianca,
      These symptoms sound like important ones to discuss with your doctor. Given that these symptoms began in relation to medical things, following up with your doctor is a good starting point. The two of you can discuss anxiety, and your doctor can recommend a treatment plan.

  5. I’ve a problem don’t know how but sometimes a perfectionist comes into my mind and wants everything perfect but nobody does and even I don’t do but at that time it is very frustrating for me to have a conflict between the perfectionist and the realistic I’ve faced many a problems due to this what to do it never leaves even I distract myself for some time it re appears

    1. Hi M S Abdul,
      Perfectionism is an ugly thing that can stop us in our tracks. There is an exercise that is great for what you describe. It’s called “good, not great.” When you find yourself facing perfectionism, recognize it and mentally stop for a moment. Identify what you’re doing and what you’re doing to make it good. What are the positive qualities of the project, situation, etc., and what are the positive things you are doing. This will help you remember that you are in control and that things really are good. Think of the actions you are taking rather than your thoughts about needing to be perfect.

  6. Hello Tanya,
    I’m preparing for one competitive exam. But I am facing problem related to it. I perform well in home if I give practice test at home, I score good. But if I give it in classes, I can’t get score as per my expentetion and even lower from my home performance. I suffer from lots of strees and sometime it so suppressed over me that my hand really started to shake. I try to control my thoughts and just try to concentrate on other things. But somehow my mind just continue thinking about negative thoughts. I have also read your suggestion for doing meditation. I tried it, but it feels better for sometime like after starting it I feel better up to 3-4 days, I feel balanced. But then after my mind become so calm that I don’t wish to think about anything, I also feel like lazy. However I want this type of mind- calm- but laziness kills me from inside because in the night I think that I did nothing… So I left doing meditation. Moreover I feel so stress sometime that during in that situation I can’t understand conversation with other person and I feel like someone has sedated me, I can’t comprehend with their questions.
    So will you please suggest me solution and about meditation so that I can feel motivated, energetic and confident every time?

    1. Hello Abhishek,
      Your experience with meditation is something that intrigues me because I have experienced that phenomenon, too. The insights I’ll share aren’t research-based (I haven’t found any studies on this exact effect of meditation) but are based on my own experiences, readings, and observations. When I first got meditation to “work,” I found that it seemed to make me too relaxed. So I stopped, and my anxiety, stress, overthinking, etc. returned. I returned to meditation but modified what I was doing. I pause periodically throughout the day to breathe, visualize, and be mindful. I have the same calming benefits. I think why I felt lazy, and why you did (based on everything you wrote) is because I have a strong sense of perfectionism (your text anxiety/performance anxiety is likely tied to perfectionism). I used to believe that if I wasn’t going at full speed, and if I wasn’t feeling stressed and overwhelmed, it meant that I wasn’t working hard enough and that I would fail. So when meditation reduced stress, I actually didn’t like it. I needed that stress and all of its physical, emotional, and cognitive manifestations in order to feel like I would do well. It took me awhile to get past that belief, but I did (admittedly, it does still pop up — I just recognize it and move on). I realized that I could actually be more productive, talk to people better, and feel better when my mind is calm. It was just hard to get used to. This is just something for you to consider. Maybe try returning to meditation knowing that it won’t feel right to be less stressed at first. Keep going anyway and see if you actually become more able to work and perform the way you want to.

  7. I feel anxious in my mind,thinking what have done past which is giving this anxiety,worried what would happen yet I have done nothing. Am also having sleepless night my mind thinking

    1. Hi Jimmy,
      Anxiety can stop us in our tracks. It can keep us from sleeping at night and from moving forward during the day. It’s truly a trap. Have you ever tried mindfulness? It involves paying full attention to what is going on right now, in this moment. You can use your senses to help — what do you see, hear, feel, etc. Doing this can pull people out of the past and into the present. It works at night, too, because it distracts you from your thoughts and can be relaxing. It doesn’t typically come naturally to people at first, and it can feel forced and even impossible. But it is possible, and it won’t always feel forced. It can help you stay in the present and begin to reduce anxiety about the past.

  8. I’m really effected by mental illness like negative thoughts,overthinking fear based and lots of question related to disease (cancers, tumour, heart attack ) and much more.
    I want to leave anxiety because this time lost my concentration on studies. Plz help me doctor

    1. Hello Aditya,
      I like the comment you made about anxiety and time lost. Anxiety really does make us lose time and takes time away from the things we need to do and want to do. Negative thoughts can overpower us and dictate how we perceive things as well as actions we do or don’t take. Have you seen a doctor? Seeing a medical doctor is a great starting point because he/she can discuss your health/disease concerns. Sometimes, anxiety is an effect of medical conditions, so your doctor can put your mind at ease by talking to you about this. He/she can also recommend a helpful treatment approach to help you know which direction to take. There are treatments like medication, therapy, and bibliotherapy (reading self-help and other books). Your doctor can help you choose the right direction for you.

  9. Hi, recently I’ve been overthinking extremely to much to the worst negative thoughts. My past has brought me to recently to inbox a old friend that that I havent talked to in years and this anxiety and being careful on what I say. I feel the anxiety all in my legs and I just go through random solutions of things going bad. I watch what I say and easily regret even starting conversations with people. It seems as if my past is causing me to redirect alot of things even though its nothing bad I find as if I step into one thing and fall into another. I have a peaceful life and my mind is corrupted. I worry about what I say to ppl and if its going to convert to something worse. Im a person of wonder and it scares me. I find peace and go back into corruption.

    1. Hi Kayla,
      A very frustrating thing about anxiety (or about being human in general) is that we do bounce back and forth between finding peace and then losing it. It’s very good that you do find (create) peace. What is happening in those times when you’re at peace? Think in terms of your thoughts, feelings, actions, surrounding, circumstances, etc.) A key to making the peaceful times greater than the times of corruption is to figure out what works and do more of it. Curiosity is a character strength and it is one that can help beat anxiety. Use it here: wonder what creates peace. What are your interests, things that you’re curious about? Exploring things just might help decrease anxiety.

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