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 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/12/anxiety-and-over-thinking-everything
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
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.
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!
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.