Do you find yourself caught in a constant loop of overthinking? Analysing every decision, replaying past conversations in your mind, and imagining worst-case scenarios? Overthinking can be a compulsive behaviour that consumes our thoughts and depletes our energies. Understanding why we overthink is the first step towards breaking free from its grip and reclaiming a more peaceful and present state of mind.
We spoke to our expert Dr Pallavi Joshi, Consultant, Psychiatrist, Manipal Hospital, Varthur, Bengaluru, who explained overthinking, its causes, effects, and how to manage it.
What Is Overthinking?
Dr Joshi said, “Overthinking is a preoccupation with the same thoughts beyond their relevance. It involves repeatedly replaying past events, imagining future scenarios, and scrutinising every detail or possible outcome.” Overthinkers often find themselves trapped in a cycle of constant mental chatter, going over the same thoughts and concerns repeatedly without finding a resolution or reaching a clear decision. This tendency to over analyse can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and a sense of mental exhaustion.
Effects Of Overthinking
- Loss of productive time
- Slowed responses as many times people are engrossed in overthinking
- Not able to meet deadlines
- Absentmindedness at the work front
- Difficulty in falling asleep
Causes Of Overthinking
Dr Joshi said, “Overthinking may not have a specific cause. Depression and anxiety both can cause overthinking. Also, in schizophrenia which is a thought disorder, a lot of thinking happens which is not keeping with reality i.e. delusional thinking.” She added that women are likely to be more overthinkers when compared to men.
Impact Of Overthinking On Life
Overthinking can strain relationships as it can lead to excessive worry and doubt about interactions with others. Dr Joshi noted, “Overthinkers may interpret innocent remarks or gestures negatively, causing unnecessary conflicts or misunderstandings. They are self-absorbed or often in their own overthinking world, not available emotionally, and also are quite negative to talk to.”
Mental Exhaustion and Reduced Productivity
Overthinking can drain mental energy, leaving individuals feeling mentally exhausted and depleted. This mental exhaustion can hinder productivity and focus, as the mind is preoccupied with unnecessary thoughts and worries. Overthinkers may find themselves unable to make decisions or take action due to endless analysis and uncertainty.
Increased Anxiety and Stress
Overthinking is closely linked to anxiety and can exacerbate feelings of stress. The constant focus on negative outcomes and potential problems keeps the mind in a heightened state of alertness, triggering the body's stress response. This chronic state of anxiety can have detrimental effects on both physical and mental well-being.
Missed Opportunities and Stagnation
Overthinking can lead to missed opportunities and a reluctance to take risks. The fear of making the wrong choice or facing failure can prevent individuals from pursuing their goals and dreams. Overthinkers may become stuck in analysis paralysis, unable to move forward or make progress in various aspects of life.
How To Manage Overthinking?
Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing and grounding exercises, can help redirect the focus to the present moment. Engaging in activities that promote mindfulness, such as meditation or yoga, can train the mind to stay centred and reduce overthinking.
Challenge Negative Thought Patterns
Question the validity of negative thoughts and challenge self-limiting beliefs. Change your negative thoughts with ones that are uplifting and more optimistic. Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques can be helpful in identifying and reframing negative thought patterns. Dr Joshi suggested trying thought-stopping methods like pinching yourself whenever the mind is roaming in an unwanted direction.
Set Boundaries For Rumination
Allocate specific time for reflection and problem-solving, but limit excessive rumination. Set boundaries to prevent overthinking from taking over your entire day. Dr Joshi highlighted, “Engaging in hobbies, physical exercise, or spending time with loved ones can help redirect the focus away from overthinking. You can even track your working hours using an Excel sheet to find the amount of time wasted.”
If overthinking becomes overwhelming and significantly impacts your daily life, consider seeking support from a mental health professional. They can provide guidance, tools, and techniques to help manage overthinking and its underlying causes.
The information provided in this article is by registered medical practitioners and is for informational purposes only. Hence, we advise you to consult with your expert for a diagnosis catered to your needs.