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, September 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/12/anxiety-and-over-thinking-everything
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
Overthinking everything is something that can be both caused by anxiety and something that increases anxiety. It's a vicious cycle that is maddening. Your description of what it's doing to you is spot-on. Your keen awareness of this is a very good thing and is actually the first step in overcoming it. You're right that the readjusting your thinking aspect of it is difficult. Know that it's a process, often a slow one, but progressive nonetheless. Working with a therapist who practices cognitive-behavior therapy can be very helpful. CBT can be done in self-help format (there are many great books out there; just a search at a bookstore (off- or online) or library will yield a lot of results), but it can be slower going. That said, there are things you can start right now. Two key things to do: be very intentional about noticing and catching your thoughts and then challenge/question them and replace them with something more realistic; additionally, focus on joy--identify what reduces stress and increases happiness. Do more of that. Concentrate on making good moments throughout your day. Together, these steps are an important part of changing your thinking.
Thank you so much for your comments and feedback! Everything I write -- articles/posts for HealthyPlace and my novels (that all relate to mental illness/health) -- comes from the heart and from experience. I try to share helpful information, ideas, etc. Like not overthinking. Anxiety definitely makes people, myself included, overthink things. And when you have so much going on in your life like preparing for your husband's retirement, anxiety's games tend to get worse. I hope that the information here truly does help!
Death and the unknown of what follows are common sources of fear and anxiety. Then, if we feel guilty for questioning things like this -- like we should just accept what we've been taught -- our anxiety seems to increase, and depression can increase, too. Sometimes the act of giving yourself permission to question and explore can help relieve anxiety and depression. Of course this doesn't completely eradicate depression and bring back happiness, but it's often a powerful first step.
Me and my son are having it hard . hes 17.. I accues him of smoking, drugs etc. He brought the car home full of mud. I have him a speech. He said he was sorry but I kept over explainimg, going on . he said he told me he was sorry . I always think the worst. Working on my atv I get 8 opinions all different and then I'm a mess. I take clonazepam , effexor, Strattera and lithium but it's doesnt shut my brain off. Its ruining me, I'm no longer a people person
Yes -- even facial expressions! Tone, expressions, posture, positioning; so many things other than "just" the words. You're not alone. Overthinking is a very common aspect of any type of anxiety. How often to you have a chance to check in with your doctor? Sometimes, medication actually makes things worse, depending on the individual person. It might be something to ask your doctor. Share what's going on and how you feel you are changing. Sometimes, adjusting dosages or medications can make a difference. It's definitely needs to be done with a doctor, though, because changing medication on your own, even if it seems like a small change, can be very dangerous. You know yourself and how you want to be. Don't stop pursuing it!
Besides the "override" I have constant nausea, I don't vomit. I snow ready to send a doctor. Thank you again for your help.
I have been struggling with what I can now describe as "a mind override". I am not particularly worried about things, I instead think/mostly visualise situations, systems ..anything. My mind picks up anything and runs through it in a split second I think physically it could take me years to go through the same thought when normal. Its like I meditate with resistance and fast.
Recently I speak to myself a lot and I feel tired and don't get enough sleep. I feel that I should see a doctor but I am not sure how to put it.
Can you help explain to me what could be happening.
The "mind override" you describe (great term, by the way) is a very frustrating experience, especially when thoughts never seem to slow down. Everyone's experiences are unique, so of course I won't claim to have had your exact experience, but I will say that I've dealt with various forms of racing thoughts and know how intrusive they can be. There are absolutely things that you can do to help this, and you don't have to live with this mind override forever. Your idea of seeing a doctor is wise. I would never want to do harm to you by trying to state what you're experiencing in an online setting where it's impossible to gather all of the important information (including lab tests -- a doctor might want to do blood work, etc. to rule out various medical conditions). A while back, I wrote an article that included a checklist for talking with a doctor. Not quite knowing how to put things is a very common concern. The article addresses talking to a doctor about medication, but it applies to situations beyond medication. You can use the concepts to help you communicate with a doctor. Don't give up. There really are ways to overcome all of this. Here's the link to the checklist: http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2014/11/talking-to-your-doctor-about-anxiety-medication/
For social anxiety- I am a very outgoing person. But I worry about what they think of me or how I sound (I have vocal chord paralysis. So I sound weird
Anxiety has a nasty habit of telling us we sound weird. It also makes us question things and people. You've described some of anxiety's tricks very well. I get what you mean about multiple choice tests (true/false, too). I always overthought them too. Do you have something that you do or a place where you go where anxiety doesn't make you overthink? Engaging in something meaningful (and safe) is a great way to give yourself a break from anxiety. Talking to someone about your anxiety can be helpful, too. Know that you're not alone, and you're not weird. :)
You're definitely not "psycho" or "crazy" or anything like that! It can be beyond frustrating when the brain races off, overthinking even the smallest things; it's worse than frustrating when it interferes in our lives. Given that our thoughts, feelings, and actions are interconnected, it makes sense that this interferes in life. The good news is that you are aware of your thoughts and what they're doing. Sometimes people aren't fully aware of this. Now that you're aware, it's possible to separate your thoughts from who you are and what you do. We can't fully control what pops into our minds, but we do have control over how we react. Accepting these as just thoughts and then tuning into the present moment -- what is really happening rather than what your mind thinks is happening -- you can begin to break free of the trap.
Tornado is an absolutely ideal word for this overthinking. Anchoring ourselves during the overthinking storm is important. And thinking of this as a storm we can prepare for, weather, reduce its impact, and start over is a good way to look at this. :)
I love your comment! :) I think that very few people actually like the sound of their own voice, so I appreciate this. Hmmm...gardening can be effective in reducing anxiety, so maybe videos on growing cucumbers would be okay!
Thank you for the wonderful laugh! I don't think you'd appreciate it if I were in your pocket because I typically don't hold still! :D And I must thank you for saying that the video is actually too short. I have a tendency to make everything too long! I'll keep tips coming. :)
You are most definitely not alone. Tens of millions of people have anxiety disorders, and millions more experience significant anxiety without it reaching a diagnosable disorder. And overthinking is quite possibly the most common aspect of anxiety. Also, many people describe anxiety and also panic as feeling like they're losing their mind or going crazy -- or turning into a lunatic. So many times just knowing we're not alone and having a way to describe (either to others or ourselves) what we're experiencing brings relief. You can definitely get better. Come back to HealthyPlace and this Anxiety-Schmanxiety blog. There is a lot of helpful information here!