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Anxiety and Overthinking Everything

December 31, 2015 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

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.

Over-thinking everything is a horrid part of anxiety disorders. Over-thinking everything creates more anxiety. This tip helps stop over-thinking. Check it out.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.

Let's connect. I blog here. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. My mental health novels, including one about severe anxiety, are here.

APA Reference
NCC, T. (2015, December 31). Anxiety and Overthinking Everything, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/12/anxiety-and-over-thinking-everything



Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps, and five critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges. She speaks nationally about mental health, and she has a curriculum for middle and high schools. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Caroline
says:
April, 7 2016 at 1:55 am
Hi Tanya, thank you for the video and literature.
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.
Caroline.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

April, 7 2016 at 2:08 pm
Hi Caroline,
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/
Laure
says:
February, 24 2016 at 7:07 pm
Ok so I'm a teenager. And I am very sure I have GAD and social anxiety. I will overthink everything. I even over think multiple choice questions. Like will think to myself, "ok. So this is the question and then this is what I put down. So I answered my question like this. Is that the right answer? Did I read the question wrong?" Yeah it's scary because when I'm taking tests I will take forever and when I finally turn it in I will get so nervous that I read the question wrong or wrote it wrong. It sucks. And I get paranoid thoughts a lot. I don't trust people very well. I also if someone looks at me I will think of the worst things ever. The things that go through my mind is scary and irrational.

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

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 24 2016 at 9:42 pm
Hi Laure,
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. :)
Caitlin
says:
August, 15 2016 at 5:47 am
I over think everything. I create issues with loved ones because of it. I always say I'm gonna try be better however when I think something in my head I go off the rails again. It's talking over my life and I'm not even over reacting. Please help me. I feel like I'm phyco.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 15 2016 at 12:04 pm
Hi Caitlin,

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.
Allen
says:
January, 5 2016 at 12:50 pm
I have GAD, prob some PTSD, that depression accompanies my disorders. Overthinking is right. My overthinking can start my anxiety, and tornado it, till I am in full panic. Thanks for the reassuring information.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 5 2016 at 3:29 pm
Hi Allen,
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. :)
John
says:
January, 1 2016 at 3:43 pm
GAD is one of the things I suffer from. I hope 2016 is better for everyone. 2015 was alittle better than 2014. 2014 was not too good. Good luck everyone. Anxiety does put many, many weird thoughts in out brain and it does age us pretty fast.
Sheila
says:
December, 31 2015 at 1:51 am
Great tip Tanya. I also have to say that your voice makes me calm. You could do videos on growing cucumbers and I would listen...haha. That's a wonderful gift you have. Hope your New Year is peaceful and all that you want it to be.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 31 2015 at 8:03 pm
Hi Sheila,
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!
Kate K
says:
January, 6 2016 at 7:45 am
I have to agree. YOUR video distracted me and neutralized my racing thoughts. But it was too short! And I don't think you'd appreciate it if I tried to put you in my pocket! Lol. JK. I'm anxious but not a lunatic. Loved the video. Thank you. Where do we get the rest of the tips? I'm in! Cheers, Kate

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 6 2016 at 7:17 pm
Hello Kate,
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. :)
Yesenia
says:
August, 30 2018 at 11:51 pm
I agree with Kate. Hearing you calmed me down so thank you. I appreciate it

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Clinton Ogeto
says:
November, 10 2018 at 6:20 pm
Thanks for the video.I have learnt that anxiety can be controlled.I thought i was turning to a lunatic.And no one could help me because i couldn't even explain to a doctor how i felt and this really made me depressed.I now believe that i am going to get better through this video.I have realized that i am not alone.Everyone can have this anxiety problem.
November, 13 2018 at 11:53 am
Hi Clinton,
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!

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