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.
Peterson, T. (2015, December 31). Anxiety and Overthinking Everything, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, January 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/12/anxiety-and-over-thinking-everything
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
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.
The findings about marijuana use and anxiety are still mixed. Some reports state that marijuana can reduce anxiety while others state that it can cause or increase anxiety. Marijuana does affect each person differently, so it is indeed possible that it is contributing to your overthinking and thoughts that people are out to get you. Marijuana has been known to cause psychotic breaks, which involve a separation from reality or a confusion between thoughts and reality, such as thoughts that people are going to hurt you even thought you know it isn't true. You might consider consulting with a doctor or naturopath, whichever you prefer, to discuss your symptoms. He/she can help you determine what's going on and where you want to go from here. It seems like you have good insight into yourself and changes you're experiencing, and that's excellent. You are in a good healing position.
You are not alone. Being in a relationship with someone struggling with mental health challenges can be very difficult. It's because you care that it is so difficult and leads to that lost and hopeless feeling. There needs to be more resources available for people in your situation. One resources is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) - NAMI.org. If there's one in your community, they might have information and resources for you. Also, there is a book called Loving Someone with Anxiety: Understanding and Helping Your Partner by Kate N. Thieda that you might find helpful. It is broader than overthinking, but because overthinking is part of anxiety you might find it useful.
Perhaps other readers will chime in and share their experiences!
Everything you describe is a legitimate part of anxiety. I'm glad you found something that might help. Keep doing what you're doing -- seeking information about anxiety and trying things you find useful. Anxiety can sometimes make us feel helpless, but that's one of anxiety's tricks. You can overcome anxiety.
I'm so happy that you'd like to give this a try. I know you'll have good news to report, and I'm looking forward to reading about it! Be patient with yourself, as our thoughts can take root deeply. It's possible to stop overthinking. If I can do it, anyone can. :)
Depression and anxiety can be stubborn. Medication takes time to work, and often it falls short by itself. Do you have access to mental health professionals? If not in person, you might consider looking for online therapy services. A professional can help you deal with fear, anxiety, depression, and overthinking. Something you can start on right away is taking time every day to take several slow, deep breaths. This actually creates positive changes in the brain. While doing this, you can visualize something that makes you calm and happy. You can also practice mindfulness. When you find yourself overthinking, use all of your senses to pay attention to the present moment. What is really happening around you? What good is within you and around you, etc. Doing these things can start to provide immediate relief in moments while you work with someone to create more strategies.
That is a lot to deal with, and it would increase anyone's anxiety (and probably create new anxiety if none existed). I think that perhaps without realizing it you might have hit on a starting point. You referred to wanting a break. That is completely normal and okay and doesn't make you a bad mother. We all need breaks. They're a vital part of our wellbeing, including anxiety management. You might try working even short breaks (5 minutes) throughout the day. Go to a place where you are alone and have some quiet. I don't know if you've heard of the humorist and life columnist Erma Bombeck. She used to say that she'd hide on the floor of the backseat of her car just to have a break from her kids, who she loved dearly. Try taking several small breaks each day and breath deeply, read a few pages of a book, breathe in scented oils, or anything healthy that you find pleasurable and relaxing. This won't solve all of your struggles in an instant, but it's a good start to taking control of your world. Also, visiting in person with a therapist can be incredibly helpful in sorting things out and making plans. By working at this in pieces, maybe starting with breaks, you can overcome it.
You're not alone. Anxiety and depression commonly occur together. This link will take you to a couple of articles that discuss dealing with depression and anxiety: https://www.healthyplace.com/depression/anxiety-and-depression/anxiety-and-depression-articles/
A pharmacist or medical doctor should have great information about the correlation between anxiety and birth control. I've seen mixed reports on how much hormonal birth control causes/contributes to anxiety. It does seem that there is a relationship, which makes sense given the fact that hormones in birth control seem to affect neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. You're wise in listening to your body and mind. Everyone is unique and has different responses to birth control and other medications. And speaking of medication, anxiety medication can be helpful for some but it's not for everyone. It is definitely possible to reduce and manage anxiety without it.
I think many, many people will relate to your comment -- myself included! It is absolutely a thinking pattern, and awareness of it is the first step in breaking away from it. Once you're aware (which you seem to be), you can start to intentionally turn your thoughts to positive, realistic things. It's a process -- and one that works! Thank you for your comment.
Anxiety and overthinking, creating worse-case scenarios, etc. is definitely stressful. Sometimes it can be a helpful start to remind yourself (every time!) that just because anxiety puts a thought in your head doesn't mean it's accurate. Turn your attention to the evidence on the outside. It's a process, but it's a do-able process!