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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.

189 thoughts on “Anxiety and Overthinking Everything”

  1. Not sure if this is anxiety or not but I see something or someone that I might have known years ago then I try to remember what they were called! If I’m having a stressful time it seems to take over my thoughts and is so annoying, I think about it constantly and I feel as if I’m not ‘here’. I really need strategies to overcome this as it makes me feel that I’m going mad sometimes and need to know if it is anxiety or some other problem.

    1. Hi Amanda,
      I certainly won’t do harm to you by trying to tell you what is going on. That would be horrible! You might want to consider checking in with your doctor as an important step in getting to the bottom of this. Memory and recall difficulties could be a sign of something serious, or they could be the result of stress or other things going on in your life. I can imagine that this would be anxiety provoking. Once you address any medical issue, you’ll be able to target anxiety-related overthinking.

      1. Hi tanya,
        I have a girlfriend right now and she’s breaking up with me i think it’s because of her anxiety and depression she always think about everything like everyone hates me i think its just because of that and she’s an pessimistic she always think that we won’t last long i want to give up on everything i dont want to live anymore. I just wanna die. One time she said there was a girl and that girl is helping her to do suicidal she said that that girl said to me don’t be scared it’s not painful its just easy. For me as her boyfriend i kept on saying to her that you should value your life, we can get through it trust me i know you can! I know i can we will face everything together. I always say that to her. But now she’s breaking up with uou what should i say to her? I think it’s just because of her attacks we don’t have problems to each other and it just happened like i dont want to continue this relationship im sorry i shouldn’t come back i know this gonna happen. I really really need you help! I dont know what to do with her she’s always like that she’s a suicidal and i dont want to loose her i love her so much!

  2. Hi Tanya, my situation is a little bit complicated I think.
    I always think about things i have to do (at work) but never get around to doing some of them because other tasks I wonder how I will achieve them. Sometimes because I don’t know how I will achieve something I feel like i’m incompetent and this jobs is not for me. But then I also stay with my girlfriend and we’ve been fighting a lot because I feel like she’s drifting away, but she insists she is not. I say she is because she’s stopped doing some things she used to do which I find sort of important in a relationship. Or Maybe I’m just overthinking what a relationship should be like. My relationship with her and my career both put me under pressure because 1) At my age 27, I have not yet reached the success level I’d hope, 2) with things being shakey in my relationship this also kills my dreams of ever getting married at 30 with a successful job. I just overthink everything in my life right now because I feel like I don’t have answers to anything.

  3. How can I stop overthinking everything about my partners recent infedelity? We have stayed together for the sake of the kids and he wants to just forget snf move on but a month later and I’m really struggling. I keep overthinking why he done it, how much he done, I keep checking everything, have gone back over his phone records to the other person several times which brings me down again. Iv lost 14lb since I found the texts and I can’t eat or sleep which is no good as I have a 3 month old baby! Iv been ill for a few weeks too and have constant headaches.

    1. Hi Lauren,
      It sounds like this has you stuck. When something is affecting you this deeply and hurts both your mental and physical health, it is often helpful to see a therapist (in person or online if in person isn’t possible). Having regular support can help you know where you want to go and how you’re going to get there.

  4. About 2 month ago I had back pain after round of golf
    And dr told me it’s pitched nerve and will go away and now I am mostly pain free but I am having constant anxiety of something bad happening to my hip and lower back, can play sports out of fear and even driving because I am worried about pain might come back and worse what if I can’t walk any more. I am walking fine and even ruining fine but moly mind is constantly focused on my hip and it’s driving me crazy. Please help. Now I am taking anti anxiety medication

    1. Hi John,
      Your anxiety makes a lot of sense given the back/nerve pain you were having. It sounds like you are very active, so you probably hate the thought of losing this part of your lifestyle. These are very normal and legitimate concerns. Often, with something concrete like this — where you have a cause that directly relates to the type of anxiety you’re having — you can address the anxiety very directly and with specific action. Have you tried researching hip pain and hip injuries? You could look at symptoms, causes, and treatment. Then, make a plan for how to prevent hip pain and damage. Sports injury websites or orthopedic websites will have all this information, including prevention. Once you know what a hip injury is, you can also know what pain is not indicative of an injury. And you can create a daily prevention plan (certain stretches, drinking enough water, eating certain foods that are good for body health, and other things that will keep you healthy. Taking action like this might reduce your anxiety and increase your physical health.

  5. Hi ..can you tell me how to avoid over thinking bout something wrong might happen everytime I hear something strange I always think that there was someone or something might happen.. Its 1am I cant get this off of my head.. Im tired checking everytime I hear something.. Im tired ..

    1. Hi anais,
      It makes sense that you’re tired! Worrying and overthinking and checking are exhausting. Based on your description, there could be several different things at work (I would never do potential harm by trying to give a diagnosis in this context). Knowing what’s going on will help you know what to do to stop overthinking. Seeing a doctor or therapist would be very helpful. You don’t have to put up with this!

  6. Yes I think 3 weeks is still so soon too but I’m struggling to get over how the citalopram made me feel and feel I am still having these thoughts as if had them for 5 month on those awful tablets. Maybe I should up my dose on the mirtazipine to help with my anxiety as I’m still overthinking and obsessing. Then one thought spirals into 1 million. Had a bad day yet I feel so calm now! I don’t kmow how it works:( im.nooked in to see my Dr next week
    Feel like I will be like this forever!

  7. I am very depressed plz help me i am the pactient of over thinking and social anxiaty ………. sometime I am feels that my mother is not beautiful and then I feels allergy for my mom but just sometime plz help me teach me that how to treat these kind of ugly thouts I am poor girl

  8. I overthink about life and death and about things I did in the past and things that can happen in the future like a disabled child that will hate you I always think about the future that you are gonna waste your best years in school/college and your second best years working and when your old and can’t move you waiting that your death will free you from your terrible boring life I’m always stressed at school and my mom wants me to be a doctor or a dentist or something in that way but I don’t want that and I don’t want to talk about anything with anyone because I’m sure they will think I’m just crying for attention… so yeah…

    1. Hi Anon,
      You are in good company here and definitely not alone with this type of anxiety and overthinking. Did you notice that much of your anxiety is about the past or the future. When that happens, it’s helpful to bring your thoughts back to the present by using mindfulness and deep breathing. Use your senses to be aware of what is going on right here, right now, and breathe deeply. You could count your breaths if you want to. Think of positive things that are happening in the present. That can help in the moment.

      I wonder if there is a bigger issue underlying everything. You’re experiencing a lot of stress, and a lot of it could be rooted in your mom’s expectations of you. You want to do something that interests you, and that is more than okay. It’s normal! Parental expectations aren’t easy to address. You don’t have to do it yet. Give yourself permission to explore things you like. It will be very helpful to talk to someone. Does your school have a counselor? Or what about a teacher you like and trust? Or another adult in your life? A trusted friend can be helpful, too. Don’t be so sure that they’ll all think you’re crying for attention. 🙂 Reducing your anxiety and becoming okay with admitting that you don’t want to be a doctor or a dentist is a process, so be patient with yourself.

  9. Hi Tanya,
    I’m getting sooo tired of my brain. I constantly am stressed out about things I have to do like going to piano practice, or presenting something. I overthink things and it makes it hard for me to sleep. The amount of stress and anxiety that I get from little things is overwhelming. I can come across as awkward to people at school. I am a normal person, but in conversations, when I want to say things, the words won’t come out because I think to much about what people might think if I say it.
    Please give me some advice. Thx!

    1. Hi Rachel,
      I like your comment about being sooo tired of your brain. 🙂 I’ve felt that way before, too, especially around social anxiety. I have a few thoughts that you might want to consider. I definitely understand what you mean when you say you can come across as awkward. Your thought is legitimate, but it might not be accurate. We tend to look at the world and interpret others from our own biased perspective. If you feel awkward, it makes sense to you that others think you’re awkward. That’s known as mind-reading, and it’s very common in people who have anxiety. It’s common in everyone, actually, but when someone has anxiety, this mind reading happens more often and is much more bothersome. It’s impossible to know what others are thinking, even when we’re reading body language and other non-verbal communications. Anxiety skews that, too, and we tend to read into posture, tone, and more. A good strategy is to accept that you don’t actually know what people are thinking. When you start thinking about how others are judging you, simply admit to yourself that they might not be thinking about you as awkward at all.

      Also, try giving yourself permission to talk when you want to talk and be quiet when you want to be quiet. I’m not sure if you do this, but I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to talk, to say exactly the right thing, and to carry a conversation — and when I did these things, I worried that I said the wrong thing or came off as obnoxious. Once I gave myself permission to stop doing this, to say something if I wanted to say it and just listen to the conversation if I didn’t want to say something, my anxiety decreased and I found it was easier to participate in conversations. Doing this was a matter of reminding myself and practicing. And time. It took awhile to change, but when I accepted this as a process of forward movement, it was better.

      Something really big that can be underlying your anxiety is the stress you mentioned with your schedule and to-do projects, etc. Have you made a list of everything that’s on your plate? Get it out of your head and onto paper where you can see it. You might feel overwhelmed by it at first, but it’s a way to take charge of things. Are there things, even the smallest things, that you can eliminate? What do you love the most? There is where to put most of your energy? What things do you dislike but have no choice but to do (homework in certain classes, for example). How can you balance these in without letting them consume you? Can you talk to your parents about reducing or eliminating some things? Are you taking breaks? Those times when you feel like you can’t take a break are the times when you need it the most. Even a five-minute brisk walk outside or a few minutes of slow, deep breathing will help you destress and then work more efficiently.

      I tried to find a balance here of not being too long but also giving some basic thoughts. I hope this helps a bit! You’ve got great awareness of your brain and what’s going on with your life. Not everyone has this awareness. It’s great that you do because you’ve identified what you want to change. Your ready to find and employ strategies. Be patient with yourself as you do!

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