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.
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.
NCC, T. (2015, December 31). Anxiety and Overthinking Everything, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/12/anxiety-and-over-thinking-everything
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
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.
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.
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!
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.
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/
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.
Anxiety that lasts so long can be so frustrating and disheartening. The anxiety is stubborn. It finds a way to get to you, and it won't let go. It is often helpful to work with a therapist of other mental health professional when it comes to chronic anxiety. You can receive fresh insights and tools to reduce your anxiety. The article Chronic Anxiety: Managing Chronic Anxiety Symptoms might have some useful insights: https://www.healthyplace.com/anxiety-panic/gad/chronic-anxiety-managing-chronic-anxiety-symptoms/
Anxiety and negative thinking really can wreak havoc on our lives. Believe it or not, you are already moving in the direction of overcoming this because you have such great insight into what's going on. This insight doesn't always come easily, but without it it's even more difficult to move forward. This is a big deal. Own it! :)
There are different approaches that research shows to be effective with anxiety and overthinking/negative thinking. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and solution-focused therapy (sometimes called solution-focused brief therapy or SFBT) are all approaches that have been shown to be successful. One isn't necessarily better than the others because people are so unique. Something that works great for someone won't work at all for someone else. You might want to start by just searching for information about these approaches (HealthyPlace has articles about all of them, and there are many other sources of info, too). This will give you a starting point. Working with a therapist can be very helpful, too.
This is a process more than a quick-fix. Think of it as a journey toward creating the life you want to live!
Dealing with relationships and the fear of breaking up with someone you care about is very stressful and anxiety-provoking. With such strong feelings, it is often helpful to work through them with a professional counselor, either in person or online. A counselor can help you address your emotions and things that might be causing them as well as to move forward in the direction that is right for you.
The fear of death is one of the top fears that people have. So you're not alone in this! A therapeutic approach that is helpful with fears like this is acceptance and commitment therapy. You work with a therapist (working with a therapist is ideal, but if it's not possible you can use books or other resources) to learn how to accept things that can't be changed, like death, and then learn to live how you want to live in order to get the most out of your life in each moment. It's not a quick-fix, but it is a very good "fix" for things like the fear of death. You can overcome this fear, or at least make it a lot less bothersome.
Thank you for saying that you hope I'm feeling well. That was nice! I am feeling well - but often tired. :) Overthinking is very maddening, and when anxiety makes us worry so much, it can feel like the worries will come true and anxiety will never leave. Those thoughts aren't accurate but instead are a product of anxiety. If you are having thoughts about wanting to die, call or go online and chat with the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. It's in the US, but it is possible to chat with them online if you can't call. If you're not in the US, then can usually help connect you with resources where you are. If you're in the US, they'll still connect you with resources. They are at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org or 1-800-273-8255. Please know that your experience with anxiety and overthinking don't have to last, and anxiety won't kill you no matter how it makes your body feel. It can feel like a heart attack, asthma, and so much more, but it isn't. Of course, getting checked by a doctor to rule out health problems is a good idea. But anxiety itself won't kill you.
Thank you so much for your words. You gave me a boost today! :) As for medication, your hesitation makes sense. The answer to your question is yes, you most definitely do have the right to decline! You can also seek second opinions at any time because doctors have different perspectives. Based on what you've written (I know there is a lot more to you than what's here, but I'll of course stick to just this), you might not even need to seek a second opinion at this point. That could come later *if* you begin to wonder if medication is worth trying. For now, it is perfectly reasonable and healthy to try other techniques to manage your anxiety before just jumping to medication. It's always your choice. Seek input and info, then do what you believe is best for you. You've got this!
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!
What is terrible situation to be in. It sounds like you care about her a great deal. She's lucky! There are times when another person (your girlfriend) is experiencing extreme mental health difficulties, and because of those difficulties, they aren't receptive to what other people are telling them. She hears your words, but isn't actually processing them. That is not your fault. You might try giving her the information for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255; suicidepreventionlifeline.org (there's an online chat service here). She quite likely needs professional help. You can express to her that you'll help her through this. She might not be in a position to listen/receive your support. If that's the case, you won't be betraying her and you're not a bad person if you step back. Give her some time and check in with her down the road a bit. Sometimes that's the best way to care for someone else and yourself.
Relationships can be difficult, and trust issues make things worse. This article might have some helpful ideas: Don't Let Anxiety Ruin Your Relationships - https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2017/02/unlucky-in-love-when-anxiety-interferes-in-relationships/
Thank you for leaving this inspiring comment. It's easy to feel that there is no hope, and your comment is going to be uplifting for so many. Congratulations on your 4 weeks clean! Not easy for so many reasons. Keep looking *forward* -- with the healthy perspective you have, you'll get to the light and beyond.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
Feel like I will be like this forever!