How to Stop Overthinking: Understanding the Process

How to Stop Overthinking: Understanding the Process

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Jaya
Jaya Sharma
Assistant Manager - Content
Updated on Oct 3, 2023 11:26 IST

Overthinking is an exhausting mental activity that takes up most of your time and energy. Due to these compulsive thought pattern, not only personal but also professional life starts getting hampered.

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As an overthinker, this article hits close to home. The aim of writing this article is to gain clarity on what causes overthinking and how to stop overthinking. Let us start by understanding overthinking followed by exploring the reasons that cause overthinking.

Table of Contents

What is overthinking?

As per psychology, overthinking is a mental activity where the person engages in obsessive and destructive thought patterns for a prolonged period of time. Either a single thought keeps on repeating or one thought leads to another and so on. Thoughts trap your brain and it continues to function without any pause. This causes unnecessary worry which exhausts the brain. 

Overthinkers may obsess over their problems and replay them in their minds, or think about potential negative outcomes and what they could have done differently. Overthinking can affect their mood, function, and attention. 

An overthinker may engage in excessive rumination or repetitive mental analysis of their intrusive thoughts, trying to find solutions, reassurance, or certainty. This can lead to a cycle of overthinking as a way to manage the anxiety associated with their obsessions.

What causes overthinking?

There can be both medical and environmental factors that cause overthinking.

Medical Factors

Many medical factors also lead to overthinking:

  • Anxiety disorders: It is commonly associated with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) Anxiety disorders are mental health conditions that cause excessive worry and fear. They can cause intrusive thoughts that lead to overthinking. People with anxiety disorders may worry about things that most people would not consider a big deal. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, and rapid heartbeat.
  • Depression: Depression is a mood disorder that can cause feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness. It can also cause physical symptoms such as fatigue and changes in appetite. People with depression may have negative thoughts that lead to overthinking.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder: OCD is a mental health condition that causes unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behavior. People with OCD may have intrusive thoughts that lead to overthinking. They may also feel compelled to perform certain behaviors to reduce their anxiety.
  • Stress: This is a normal part of life, but too much stress can be harmful. Stress can cause physical symptoms such as headaches and muscle tension. It can also cause emotional symptoms such as irritability and anxiety. When we are stressed, we may worry about things that are not important or that we cannot control.

Environmental Factors

The following environmental factors lead to overthinking:

  • Trauma: Trauma is an emotional response to a distressing event such as an accident, natural disaster, or violence. People who have experienced trauma may have intrusive thoughts that lead to overthinking. They may also have physical symptoms such as nightmares and flashbacks.
  • Negative experiences: Negative experiences such as rejection or failure can trigger fear and worry, which can lead to overthinking about all the negative things that might happen or what you could have done differently.

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Let Go: How to Stop Overthinking?

Let us now go through the steps to learn how to stop overthinking:

  • Notice the red flags: This is the first step to deal with overthinking. It involves becoming aware of your thought patterns. In early stages when we get caught up in a cycle of overthinking, we might not realize it. We might feel anxious, have trouble sleeping, or even find it hard to concentrate. It is important to notice the red flags early on so that we can develop a sense of mindfulness and self-awareness about our mental state.
  • Find the root cause: Overthinking is often a symptom of underlying fear or uncertainty. Instead of focusing on the surface-level problems that your mind is obsessing over, this step involves digging deeper to identify the root cause of your worries. It’s about asking yourself what you’re truly afraid of and acknowledging that fear.
  • Assess your thoughts: This step is about acceptance and understanding. Instead of trying to ignore or push away your thoughts, allow yourself to analyze them. You need to acknowledge the issue of overthinking without feeling guilty. This can be challenging, as our instinct is often to avoid uncomfortable feelings. By assessing your thoughts, you have learned half the lesson of how to stop overthinking.
  • Fulfill your Needs: Once you have identified and acknowledged your fear, the next step is to consider what you need to alleviate it. This could be a range of things, from seeking support from a friend to taking some time for self-care, to taking concrete action to address the situation that’s causing you to stress. It’s about identifying positive, proactive steps you can take to manage your fear and reduce your tendency to overthink.
  • Stay in the present moment: This step is about bringing your focus back to the present moment. Overthinking often involves worrying about the future or ruminating on the past. By focusing on something in the here and now, you can break the cycle of overthinking. This could be as simple as focusing on your breath, engaging in a task, or even just noticing the details of the world around you.

Conclusion

Overthinking initially starts as a problem-solving task. With time, it turns into a vicious cycle that begins with a series of compulsive thoughts which starts having negative effects not only on your personal life but also on your health. While overthinking is not a mental illness, if it continues for long periods of time; it can also put you into anxiety and depression. Chronic overthinkers suffer from prolonged effects of overthinking which also takes a whole lot amount of time. 

About the Author
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Jaya Sharma
Assistant Manager - Content

Jaya is a writer with an experience of over 5 years in content creation and marketing. Her writing style is versatile since she likes to write as per the requirement of the domain. She has worked on Technology, Fina... Read Full Bio