Are you consumed by your worries and unable to focus on anything else? Losing sleep and your appetite because of stress? Overthinking puts significant strain on both your physical and mental health, but you can learn how to manage it.
Feel like you’ve got a worry in your head that you just can’t seem to clear? Plagued by an issue that you can’t resolve or let go of? It is normal to overthink things now and then, especially in times of stress. But if overthinking is a regular part of your thought pattern, this could signal an underlying mental health issue, and increase the possibility of impacts to your physical health as well. Understanding what causes overthinking and learning some strategies to help combat it are important in preventing serious ill-effects of overthinking.
How Can I Tell if my Thoughts are Actually Overthinking?
Big decisions, like moving to another place or quitting a job, necessitate careful consideration. Overthinking however, happens when thoughts around an issue become excessive, seriously limiting your capacity to think about anything else. At times, overthinking may inhibit your ability to function and can be disruptive to your daily life.
“The hallmark of overthinking is that it is unproductive,” explained Jessica Foley, LMHC, a therapist in Waltham, Massachusetts to GoodRx Health. “An example might be spending hours ruminating on a decision and perhaps missing a deadline or losing sleep.” Overthinking focuses almost solely on the discomfort of a perceived problem, but often does not include consideration of potential solutions.
Signs of Overthinking
If you’re not sure that what you are experiencing is overthinking, there are some key signs to help you assess whether you might be engaging in this destructive form of thinking:
- Feeling persistently worried or anxious
- Focusing on worst-case scenarios
- Regularly replaying situations or actions in your head
- Feeling like you’re mentally exhausted
- Experiencing depression as a result of your thoughts
- Obsessing about things that are beyond your control
- Planning excessively
- Insomnia as a result of persistent thoughts
- Second-guessing decisions or actions
- Regularly seeking reassurance from others to help alleviate the discomfort of overthinking
- Feeling unable to concentrate on anything else
Is Overthinking a Mental Illness?
While overthinking on its own isn’t considered a mental illness, it may be a symptom of an underlying mental health disorder. There are several different mental health conditions that can be linked to overthinking.
Is overthinking anxiety?
Overthinking can be associated with several types of anxiety disorders, including generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. Overthinking and anxiety disorders tend to feed into each other, creating a vicious cycle that prolongs stress and discomfort.
How are overthinking and PTSD related?
The onset of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can spur hypervigilance, where you’re constantly on high alert, and your body is in a fight-or-flight mode. This state can include overthinking about possible signs of danger or potential threats.
Overthinking and depression
The fixation on negative thoughts and outcomes that can be a hallmark of overthinking can either be a sign of depression or create a risk for developing depression. If you are constantly replaying mistakes or past events, this can feed into depression.
Is overthinking a sign of ADHD?
Overthinking can also be a part of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as racing thoughts can sometimes get stuck in a recurring loop. ADHD overthinking also tends towards negativity and worry, and causes trouble sleeping or focusing on other tasks.
Overthinking and OCD
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is also characterised by overthinking. People with OCD will often spend an excessive amount of time thinking about, analysing, or trying to clarify a repeatedly intrusive thought.
Overthinking Effects on the Body
Not only can overthinking create serious mental distress, but it can also cause significant physical health effects as well. Overthinking may lead to immediate ailments like headaches, stomach upset, insomnia, and generalised aches and pains. Over the long term, the heightened levels of stress caused by overthinking can lead to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues that can place strain on the heart. These serious effects underscore the importance of managing overthinking and developing new, healthier thought patterns.
How to Stop Overthinking Everything
If you are caught in a cycle of overthinking, you probably want nothing more than to make it stop. Overthinking can make you feel as if you’re not in control of your brain, but the reality is that there are ways to help get your thoughts on track.
Know your triggers
What sets off a pattern of overthinking? Is it a specific topic? Does it tend to happen around certain types of events? Understanding better what triggers your overthinking can help you identify those thoughts as soon as they enter your mind, and work to either let them go or to immediately employ some other coping strategies to help mitigate their effects.
Move your body
Stop Google searching, put down your phone, shut your computer, and start moving. Whether it be going outside for a walk, doing some stretches, dancing, or cleaning up around your home, physical movement can be helpful in breaking the cycle of overthinking. Changing the scene by going to grab a cup of coffee or hitting the gym may also redirect your thoughts.
Identify what is within – and outside of – your control
Are you beating yourself up over something you have absolutely no control of? This is a common factor in overthinking. In fact, many of our thoughts can revolve around trying to control things that are out of our hands, and then when things go wrong, we take them on as our fault. Being honest with yourself about what you genuinely are able to influence – and what you aren’t – can help with patterns of overthinking.
Mindfulness exercises are effective both in managing destructive patterns of thought like overthinking, and in helping to calm the body’s stress response. These practices shift the mind’s focus to the present and away from negative feelings about the past or worries about the future. Mindfulness practices include things like:
- Breathing exercises
- Mindfulness meditation
- Fitness training
- Progressive relaxation techniques
Consider talk therapy
Not only can a therapist provide a safe and supportive platform by which to air your worries, but they can also help you develop different thought patterns that serve you in a better, healthier way. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a common form of talk therapy that involves identifying, examining and altering established patterns of thought to help better balance emotions and improve your overall outlook.
Compassionate Mental Health Treatment at The Dawn Thailand
At The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab Thailand, we offer a unique, holistic approach to mental health and addiction treatment. Our mental wellness programme has been specially designed to help our clients gain a deeper understanding of their symptoms, and learn skills to manage their condition. For all of our clients, including those with co-occurring disorders such as an addiction and anxiety, or depression and anxiety, we offer highly tailored treatment to assure the best outcomes for your health.
Stop Your Overthinking at a Mental Health Retreat in Thailand
Located on the outskirts of the beautiful city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, The Dawn’s tranquil riverfront location, surrounded by rice fields and traditional Thai villages, immediately transports you into an oasis of calm completely removing you from all your stressors – the people, places and things in your daily life that contribute to your condition.
Internationally accredited by the American Accreditation Commission International (AACI), The Dawn offers a carefully cultivated mix of the latest psychotherapeutic techniques, cutting-edge technology and scientifically proven wellness practices to ensure holistic healing and instill healthy coping skills.
Call us today to learn more about our mental health retreat.