I’m no expert, but I do know that as species, human beings are quite complicated. Everything from our emotions, to how we assess things can be considered complex. And while I am quite terrible with my emotions, the way I ‘handle’ them can be quite complex. But before I convert this into another diary entry, let’s look at the basics.
The term ‘overthinking’ is pretty self-explanatory. But even then, most of the time can be undetected by a few, even if someone is doing it themselves. However, despite the thought process being an integral part of our brain, an excess amount of thinking could do more harm than good.
So is overthinking a mental disorder?
Here’s where things could get fuzzy. On one hand, overthinking is often linked to several psychological conditions like anxiety, depression, and more. Even though it isn’t a mental disorder in this aspect, it could lead to the downfall of your mental health. While on the other hand, overthinking sounds extremely similar to a condition called Generalized Anxiety Disorder, a.k.a GAD.
What is GAD?
People affected by GAD have difficulty controlling their anxiety and staying focused on daily tasks. Things like health, money, or general issues are worrying for most of us. But GAD makes issues like this worse because of an extremely overwhelming feeling of worry or nervousness. It can often flare up due to absolutely nothing as well. Researchers believe that GAD is common in both children and adults, but can often be hereditary.
So is overthinking a mental disorder? It’s debatable. But what I can confirm is that it isn’t healthy, for any of us.
Now, despite what many would say, everyone overthinks at some point. It’s something I know I do. I’ve often found myself saying things like “My mind won’t shut off”, or “I can’t help but think about it”. But I’ve also happened to come across a situation while stuck in this downward spiral. I initially believed that overthinking was great for me. Analyzing and thinking about things constantly has to help, right?
It doesn’t. Why? Because I’ve recently learned about something called Analysis Paralysis. In simpler terms, overanalyzing or overthinking about a situation or a decision could often result in being ‘paralyzed’. Due to a fear of a complicated situation, no decision is made because a larger issue could potentially arise. This could also lead to hasty decisions or decisions made by pure guilt or more. Because the more you overthink, the more overwhelmed you get, and the more clouded your judgement gets.
Two of A Kind
With how self explanatory and simple the term is, you wouldn’t expect much from it. However, there are two forms of overthinking, going over the ‘what-ifs’ of the past, and wondering what the future holds for you.
I’m sure you’re going to say “I’m sure that sounds a lot like planning”, but that’s completely different. Planning your future involves you being prepared, whereas overthinking involves you dwelling over every possible thing. You can’t change your past, yet some people can’t help but relive every possible thing that is the reason for their anxiety.
While most of the time we assume that overthinking is calculated, based on the amount of time spent pondering over your thoughts, it isn’t. You can spend an extremely long amount of time coming up with creative ideas, learning about and from your behaviour and more. That’s productive. However, when you’re overthinking about things that aren’t in your control, regardless of how short or long that time spent is, it is unhealthy since it doesn’t affect you.
Is there any way to determine if any of us are overthinking?
Tell Tale Signs
As I previously mentioned, overthinking is a human trait that at times can’t be detected, despite going through it yourself. However, many telling signs could help you determine if you’re an overthinker!
One of them being the inability to sleep. No, not because you have insomnia, but because your mind simply won’t shut off. I’ve had various instances where I’ll overthink something as small as a casual conversation I’ve had with an acquaintance. But instead of going over it once, I go over it countless times. Along with coming up with various scenarios, I also think about why this particular thought holds significance at that moment for me.
Another sign is thinking people are talking about or laughing at you. So many of us are guilty of just freezing right on the spot if we notice someone looking our way. And even though, we know they couldn’t possibly be laughing at, or talking about you. Yet we can’t help but think about it.
One of the many things I’m guilty of doing is constantly reliving the past. I’ve lost count of the amount of time I’ve spent going over the good and the bad in my life. While it was good to relive all the good, it was the bad where I spent most of my energy. And it did me no good. Because I just kept trying to think of what I would have or should’ve done. But while I was wasting time dwelling over the past, the rest around me made their way towards the future.
So why am I talking about this now?
I’ve known about my tendency to overthink for quite some time now. I would keep saying to people every time I had an anxiety attack, or just in a rut. But I never considered talking about it, because I wasn’t too sure anyone would want me to talk about it. I mean, I don’t have the facts, nor am I a professional.
And after a ‘healthy’ amount of overthinking regarding this, I decided to just not talk about it, because while being unsure I was a little nervous about talking about myself. Again. However, I realised that I just need to put this out there, so that my mind can finally shut up about it. I wouldn’t want to go on another ‘what if’ journey regarding my blog.
As briefly mentioned in ‘Anxiously Spiraling Out of Control’, I’ve talked about how social media wasn’t the best thing for my anxiety at this moment. Well, it’s fair to say that it isn’t the best thing for my overthinking either. However, by that logic, nothing really would be the best thing. It doesn’t take much to trigger it, to be honest. Something as simple yet equally important like my sleep cycle has been the reason for me overthinking which results in little to no sleep for me.
Yet, when I say overthinking has made me toxic, it would be completely accurate. I’m not saying that the cause of my shitty personality is one hundred per cent my overthinking, but it does play a major part in it. However, overthinking about various situations has changed me as a person.
I remember this incident from work last year, where a minor inconvenience resulted in me having a major breakdown. I’m going, to be honest, I try my best not to drag my personal life to work. No one wants that, especially me. But this incident did a number on me emotionally and mentally. And the fact that I’m bringing it up now shows how much I’ve been thinking about this.
In some cases, most people don’t want to do much to change this. But for those who do, overthinking is extremely manageable. How?
A Little’s Enough
Even though we’ve established what overthinking is, and how we can identify it, not many want to make an active effort to control it. Why? Overthinking can slowly become a pattern, along with anxiety and distress. While that could be one of the many reasons, the ability to calm down isn’t always attainable.
However, getting your overthinking in control can be relatively easy. One of the many things you can do is take a break from social media. It doesn’t have to be an indefinite one, it can be a mini-vacation, but a much-needed one for your mind.
Social media can be the worst place for your anxiety. Because of how emotional I tend to get, the smallest of things on social media have found a way to trigger me. And then my mind and I go on an incredibly long journey of overthinking. While I have managed to stay away from Instagram for a while, I’ve unfortunately started spending more time on Netflix.
This brings me to another activity that can distract your mind, pick up an activity that you enjoy best. It doesn’t have to be an activity that gets you out of bed, like I said I have Netflix, or this, writing for the blog. But pick an activity that doesn’t let you focus on things in your life. Distract yourself just so your mind has something else to pay attention to.
This next one is going to be tough: stop having expectations. I know, what an absurd thing to say. But from what I’ve learned, having expectations from people only leads your mind to dwell on these particular expectations. And that can turn you into a toxic person towards them, which in turn would affect the relationship you have with them. Planning things, as we discussed, can be great. But trying to force things to go your way, that is where your mind could go into overdrive.
I still struggle with this one. Putting things into perspective has led me down a slippery slope. Every time I’m freaking out about a particular thing, I often ask myself if this would matter a few years down the line. If the answer is no, I should be fine, right? This is where I struggle. Even if the answer is a big fat no, I’ve generally gone into full panic mode, resulting in a very inconsolable mess of a woman. But putting things into perspective is a very important step if you want to control your overthinking.
There are so many more things, but this is the final thing I want to talk about. Most of my overthinking stems from my fear of not being good enough. Recently, every single anxiety attack I’ve had has been regarding this very topic. And while I still haven’t been able to overcome this fear, I’m working towards accepting the very best version of myself.
This doesn’t mean that I haven’t been trying my hardest at work, I’ve just always had an issue with my self-esteem, and this triggers this whole mindset of me not being good enough. Now, not only does that give me a great deal of anxiety, but it also messes with whatever I’m working on. Because I might be my worst critic, but I don’t think I need to be that harsh on myself. No one should.
Overthinking can be extremely exhausting, draining, and can be harmful to your mental health. And while this can be an extremely strenuous process, actually thinking about a plan and being productive is not frowned upon. All we have to do is learn the difference between the positive and the negative. However, most of these are from my personal experiences, and you shouldn’t take my word for most of what I’ve said here.
But if you’re an overthinker and it has affected you in any possible way, I hope you find your way out of it. I know I’m still trying to. And if you’ve enjoyed this read, you can find more of my work here!