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, June 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/12/anxiety-and-over-thinking-everything
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
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.
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?
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.
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.
I want to leave anxiety because this time lost my concentration on studies. Plz help me doctor
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.
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.
In 2015 I started to notice that I worry about everything. I get very sad (my heart starts racing fast, I sweat and i feel like i'm on the edge almost all of the time) about it for a very long time, until I worry about other things. I can't seem to sort of "live" again because I feel so stuck. I worry about my health, my unemployment, how my friends/family.relatives think about me, how I think about myself, everything. It's been two years since and I feel as depressed as ever. It feels like I constantly put myself down in whatever I do. Should I go to a doctor?
While I'm not in a position to tell you what you should or shouldn't do, I will say that I think doctors (and therapists) can be very helpful. They might think that medication will help you, and they might recommend a therapist. Regardless of what path you and your doctor take, you can benefit from professional help and support.
It's important for you (and so many others, because you're not alone in feeling this way) to know that you never have to compare your experiences with others. Your experiences are making things difficult for you, and that is what matters. Next, while I can't diagnose, I will share my observation that much of what you describe sounds like social anxiety. Have you looked into that? Thinking about being embarrassed or judged by others is at the heart of social anxiety, and it causes a great deal of overthinking in the way that you described. You might want to visit with a therapist or look into social anxiety information on your own (HealthyPlace has a wealth of information, including social anxiety tests). If you feel you are experiencing social anxiety, you can target your treatment/self-help efforts accordingly and no longer feel like you're being driven crazy.
Talking to parents and other loved ones causes its own stress and anxiety. It helps to plan ahead of time the important points you'd like to discuss. Sticking to just a few top concerns is often best at first. Talking about your symptoms, how they're bothering you/disrupting your life, and what you want to do to beat this anxiety. They'll probably have questions/comments, and if you let them ask and answer neutrally, they'll be more likely to stay neutral and listen to you. The article How to Talk to Your Family About Mental Illness might be insightful for you, too. The conversation might feel awkward at first, but opening up could be a great help and relief.
If you haven't already done so, an important step is to consult with your doctor about the changes you've experienced regarding your medication. It's also a good idea to check out the physical symptoms you've described in case they relate to a different medical condition. Your doctor might also be able to give you some tips for feeling well on your honeymoon. This could go a long way in reducing anxiety so you can enjoy the time with your spouse.
Sometimes, trying to reason with our thoughts (or argue with them or find evidence to the contrary of our thoughts) can make things worse. When we try to do this, we actually reinforce our thoughts/thought patterns because that's what we are paying attention to. I know this firsthand because I've been there! I have found (personally and professionally) that two approaches can be quite helpful for overthinking/obsessing: solution-focused therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy. YOu might want to consider looking into them to see what you think. These articles offer a good introduction: Five Solution-Focused Ways to Beat Anxiety (https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2014/06/five-solution-focused-ways-to-beat-anxiety/) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): Stop Avoiding Anxiety! (https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/07/stop-avoiding-anxiety-acceptance-and-commitment-therapy/)
Hi again, Rose,
Have you mentioned to your doctor that your obsessions/overthinking began when you started medication? This could be a very undesirable side effect. Your doctor can evaluate this and possibly change dosages or the type of medication.
Be patient and gentle with yourself! Med changes can take a while to kick in. Do keep communicating with your doctor. You might need a series of changes and adjustments. It's really frustrating yet worth it to keep at it!
Because I don't want to give you bad information, I'm not in a position to get specific with medicaitons. They're tricky, and each person reacts differently to each type. I do think that you are on the right track with your questions and can absolutely keep asking your doctor (or a different one if you feel you aren't getting answers). Doctors should be able to help monitor your reactions to medications, including thoughts, and make adjustments safely. Of course you want these thoughts to disappear! And they can -- stay on top of your doctor and the medicaitons.
<strong>Hello again, Rose!</strong>
Three weeks seems like a very long time, but when it comes to the world of medication, it's not long at all. I'm not qualified to make bold statements about medications, but I do know that it can take weeks to months for a medication to fully leave the system and also for a new one to really take effect. There's a chance that you have both medications in your system, and that is possibly causing problems. It's definitely something you want to check with your doctor because he/she is the one who will know. Your doctor could also make changes based on your experiences. Medication switches always take time and multiple trips to the doctor for adjustments, so be patient with and kind to yourself.
For me I think a combination of things has added up tonne feeling this day in day out . I've realised it's exhausting , my mind never stops , the only break I get is when I'm asjsro . The moment I wake I feel tense , knotted stomach & a desire to just not face things that day ahead . Being a working mum I have to but a lot of mornings are a struggle to try to remain composed and not sit fretting about what's to come that day . Being divorced for 5 years and on my own with my daughter means there isn't someone to discuss worries or little things with at the end of a day . Nobody to put things into perspective and tell me " it's not worth worrying and it'll be fine " . Despite telling yourself this it doesn't really have the sand effect !
For me the daily jobs / events / tasks that seem small become harder when there is only myself to do all the decision making , choosing , sorting . I worry I won't get it all done , I worry that I do things wrong , I worry ill run out of time each day , work pressure adds on , I worry Ill forget places / classes I have to get my daughter to ( I never do ) , being in all places at once on time , I get anxious driving in case something happens , lost , car breaks down etc ... on & on it goes .. my only haven is running , the only thing that relaxes me & where I don't worry . I find it impossible to relax and am even worrying about a holiday abroad because it's myself and my daughter alone . It makes me so anxious I get to the point where I don't want to go ... it's difficult to rationalise it to yourself .. I'm hoping to try to find a Pilates or yoga class which may help ? Has anyone else had similar experiences ?
That is an incredibly frustrating cycle (to put it mildly) -- I've been in it before. Two approaches that can be useful for this awful cycle are solution-focused therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy (both steer people away from checking how we're feeling/thinking, which is an important step). If you are interested in learning a bit about them, these two links will give you a start: https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/07/stop-avoiding-anxiety-acceptance-and-commitment-therapy/ and https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2014/06/five-solution-focused-ways-to-beat-anxiety/
What you're experiencing does sound incredibly frustrating. Don't worry about the term "mental illness." All that means is that there are specific things researchers have found that relate to the brain. It helps doctors (and everyone else) categorize symptoms so they can best treat them. It's similar to terms like oncology (the global term for cancer -- cancers are categorized so they can be efficiently addressed). Anyway, an important starting point is to see a doctor to rule out other things that could be causing your symptoms. He/she can also consult with you about sleeping as well as make a plan for the next steps. This way, it won't, as you say, become a bigger problem than it already is.
You nailed it. This is anxiety, and it inserts itself into lives just as you described. The short answer to your question is yes, it will go away. The rest of the answer is this: it's a process. You've already begun the process: you have great insight into your anxiety, and you are seeking information and help. Working with a therapist can be incredibly helpful, especially for people who need and like to talk things through. If it's not an option right now (if you're in school and your school has counselors, that can be a good starting point that doesn't always require parental permission -- depending on age), there are apps that are designed to help people with anxiety as well as self-help books. Your library might even have some. Understanding your anxiety, knowing what you do want your life to be like (focusing on what you don't want, on the anxiety, keeps you stuck in it), and finding assistance in the form of counseling, apps, or books, is an effective plan for getting rid of anxiety and taking back your life.
You are using some harsh words to describe yourself. How we think about ourselves plays a big part in our wellbeing. Anxiety and low self-concept can contribute to each other. I have an assignment for you if you're willing. Start catching yourself being harsh. Deliberately stop yourself then change the direction of your thoughts to something realistically positive. Think you're being "bad" with people? List real examples of times you're "good."
It's not possible to tell if anyone has anxiety in this setting. That's done with a doctor or mental health care professional. You can keep doing what you're doing -- gathering information -- and if you're still concerned, take that information with you when you see a doctor/counselor. Here are links to a few articles that you might find useful:
Am I Just Worried, or Do I Have an Anxiety Disorder? https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2013/10/am-i-just-worried-or-do-i-have-an-anxiety-disorder/
Social Anxiety, Social Phobia Test https://www.healthyplace.com/psychological-tests/social-anxiety-social-phobia-test/
What is Skin Picking, Excoriation Disorder? https://www.healthyplace.com/ocd-related-disorders/excoriation-skin-picking-disorder/what-is-skin-picking-excoriation-disorder/
I know that this is more for anxiety causing overthinking however I am wondering if you could give me advice on something similar.
Recently this year I have been experiencing terrible panic attacks due to overthinking things. I have OCD which causes me to obsessively overthink things which are inevitable and I will have to eventually go through it. And it's frustrating because although I don't have full-blown panic episodes (those are more once in a while) I do have terrible anxiety about them which can cause the panic outbreaks afterwards.
It's also annoying since every little thing would trigger it. Things that don't even have to do with the actual problem and somehow, subconsciously it ends up causing me more anxiety. I can't even enjoy a day out or do the things I love due to it.
I've tried going on walks, taking my mind off things and even humming to a tune but nothing seems to be working. I even tried meditating, drinking decaffeinated teas and every possible thing I could think of yet nothing works because sight, smell and even hearing certain words just drives me off the edge. I feel like I'm trapped and I sometimes just burst into tears due to all the anxiety and panic attacks.
I've been waiting for a psychiatrist because even though I am against the whole psychotropic medication thing however I haven't got a word back from them (Which I suppose is due to the long waiting list).
I am not sure what to do since overthinking is what's causing the whole panic/anxiety issue.
I don't even know what to do anymore since I've tried almost everything...and it's harder since every single thing triggers it. It doesn't even have to relate to the thought I'm worrying about.
I'm hoping you have any advice or suggestions?
Wow -- you have been doing a lot to deal with your overthinking. Not only that, you've been doing very good things, things that are part of treatment approaches for anxiety disorders. That's a good thing. Don't give up because they don't seem to be working. These are still activities that will boost your mental health and wellbeing as you find other ways to deal with panic and OCD. What you have described fits what's called panic disorder as well as OCD. Often with these, medication is needed, especially when they don't respond to other treatments. Taking psychotropic medication is a big decision, one to be made with a doctor, and it seems like you are considering it carefully. There are certain things that do get better with medication and can worsen without it. Given that you're 19, your brain isn't quite done developing. A psychiatrist might decide that the right medication will help. It's frustrating when the wait time is so long. That seems to be a problem everywhere. Are there other psychiatrists in your area that you could contact that might be more responsive?
Here are a couple of links to information about Panic Disorder and OCD, including treatment and resources. I hope they help! https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/panic-disorder-when-fear-overwhelms/index.shtml https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/obssessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd.htm
Sorry for wrong typing, I'm not english :)
You communicate very well. It's the meaning that counts. :) I'm not in a position to be able to evaluate medication -- it could be harmful to you if I tried to do so. I can say, though, that the general role of medication is to help the brain itself (the physiology, neurochemistry, etc.) so that we are better able to address things like overthinking, worrying, etc. When you first began taking the medication and felt powerful, what else was different? What were your thoughts about yourself and others, and how did your actions change? If you can uncover what positive things you were thinking and doing, you can start to do more of that to take your power back from anxiety. You and the medication can work as a team. The medication can help your brain, and you can help your "self" -- who you are and who you want to become.
There is a high rate of anxiety among university students, so know that you aren't alone. For that reason, most (if not all) schools have counseling centers, which are typically free of charge for students. The counselors there know the unique situation of university students and are equipped to help you figure out specific elements of your anxiety, examine your goals, figure out ways to talk to parents if you want to do that, and more. Sometimes counseling centers are housed in the same building as testing centers, so that might be a good place to start (of course, the website should have the location, too). Also, there are often many types of support groups within universities, including anxiety-based groups. People meet to discuss what's causing anxiety and share ways they handle it. Meetup.com or an app specific to your university might have information. Don't give up. It is very possible to get past this anxiety.