Is overthinking disorder a real thing?! Did you know that around 1,000 people search for ‘overthinking disorder’ every month, but is there such a thing?
Well, yes and no!
Many of us may fall into the trap of overthinking about certain things in our lives. For example:
– Thinking about certain things you feel you should have said and done
– Catastrophizing or thinking the worst will happen
– Getting stuck in a pattern of ‘what-if’ thinking where you consider what could happen in a range of different circumstances
– Worrying about upcoming social events
– Performance anxiety or feeling as though you’re not good enough at work, school or other aspects of your life
It’s normal to occasionally overthink things, especially if you’re feeling particularly nervous, but what if overthinking starts to take over your life? While there is no such medical diagnosis as ‘overthinking disorder,’ there may be several reasons as to why you’re feeling this way. We look at what overthinking disorder may actually be, the signs and symptoms, and how to seek help if overthinking is taking over your life.
What is Overthinking Disorder?
Overthinking disorder is not a medical diagnosis or mental health condition, but there are plenty of reasons why you may be overthinking. If it is becoming obsessive, then it may be that you’re experiencing an anxiety disorder such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety, panic disorder, or another similar mental health condition.
The term “overthinking” is used to describe someone who may be constantly thinking about potential negative outcomes. They find it difficult to function, pay attention, and complete everyday tasks because they are too busy focusing on what they could have done differently or what might happen next.
Some common examples of overthinking include:
- Worrying about social interactions with people;
- Excessive thinking that causes one to lose sleep;
- Difficulty concentrating on other things;
- Feeling exhausted and drained from their thoughts;
- Having trouble making decisions;
- And overanalyzing everything that happens.
It is common to occasionally overthink, but if you believe that it is becoming an issue that’s taking over your daily life then you may need to seek help. It may be that you’re experiencing one of the many anxiety disorders (generalized anxiety, social anxiety, panic disorder, health anxiety, etc) and will need to find the right support for this condition.
Useful Resources for Anxiety and/or Overthinking
Want a little more help with anxiety or overthinking? Here are some more useful resources that may be helpful:
- Overcoming Overwhelm Course (no membership required)
- Overcoming Fear and Anxiety Course (no membership required)
- The RAIN Technique for Anxiety/Fear with CBT Psychotherapist Rachael (membership required)
- Overcoming Avoidance (Graded Exposure) with CBT Therapist Anjali (membership required)
- Mindfulness Techniques for Anxious Moments (podcast, no membership required)
Signs & Symptoms of Overthinking Disorders (such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder)
One of the most significant distinctions between healthy thinking and obsessive overthinking is what psychologists refer to as “self-generated thoughts.” Healthy thinkers tend to generate thoughts about themselves and their environment that are related in some way to what they are currently doing or thinking about. In contrast, obsessive thinkers have a propensity for generating self-referential thoughts that typically take the form of worry or rumination.
Some people might think that they overthink because they are trying to come up with a solution to a problem and are not succeeding. However, when it becomes a disorder, the person over-analyzes every situation and spends hours doing an activity that has been completed in minutes. This disorder is not limited to one culture or age group. It can affect anyone at any point in their lives.
Every person who has this mental health condition is aware of the fact that they are obsessing about something even if there is nothing wrong with them or their life. They also know that their thoughts are not rational, but this realization does not help them to break free from these obsessive thoughts – which can be quite frustrating for them and for those around them as well!
Cognitive distortions are ways people think that cause them to have a hard time seeing reality. One of the most common and dangerous types of cognitive distortions is called “overthinking.” It often occurs when someone is stuck in an unpleasant situation and their mind just goes round and round, but never reaches a solution. Another example of a cognitive distortion is all-or-nothing thinking.
Overthinking may be so persistent that it causes sleep difficulties, anxiety, depression or even panic attacks. People who suffer from overthinking disorder often take on too many responsibilities or fill their days with activities. They may also spend hours researching topics they are not interested in, just to avoid negative thoughts about the stressful situation they find themselves in.
Impact of Anxiety Disorders on Everyday Life
People who are affected by overthinking disorder tend to have negative thoughts endlessly circling their minds. The main effects of Overthinking Disorder are over-analysis, indecisiveness, and mental exhaustion. Consequently, people with this disorder are at an increased risk for depression and other anxiety disorders as well as other issues like low self-esteem and chronic worrying.
Overthinking can have an immense effect on everyday life. For instance, it can cause a person to have trouble sleeping because they keep thinking of all the things that could go wrong with their day. It also creates difficulty in making decisions because there is so much time spent debating between two or more options.
The effects of Overthinking Disorder are not limited to personal life, but also to professional life. Overthinking can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety and depression which in turn can lead to disasters at work or school. Sufferers are constantly judging themselves on their mistakes and looking for ways that they could have done better. This leads them into a loop where they cannot escape from their negative thoughts until they find a solution or fix the problem they caused in the first place.
Treatment Options for Anxiety Disorders and Overthinking
The first step with any kind of anxiety disorder – whether generalized anxiety, social anxiety, or something else – is to speak to a mental health professional. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is often one of the best courses of treatment for anxiety and can help relieve generalized anxiety disorder symptoms, reduce panic attacks, help you feel less anxious overall, and improve your mental health.
There are also some self-care steps that you can take to help reduce overthinking and anxiety.
The following are some tips and tricks that can be used to battle overthinking disorder:
– Clear your head from clutter and distractions by going for a walk or getting a drink of water. Sometimes, all you need is a few minutes of peace to clear your mind and come up with new ideas.
– Brain dump. Get everything out of your head and down on paper (here’s how to brain dump).
– If you have trouble sleeping, try some relaxation exercises before going to bed such as breath work, sleep stories or meditation.
– Practice good time management skills so you’re not overloaded with tasks that may cause worry. We have plenty of tips on this and highly recommend The Anti-Burnout Matrix for this.
– Remember to take care of yourself by eating healthy, exercising regularly, and scheduling enough sleep time each day.
– Try a few mindful moments to regain some time for you and focus on the present moment. Here’s one of our free lessons over on YouTube.
The following are some other treatment options for overthinking disorder:
1. Cognitive Restructuring
Cognitive restructuring is a type of psychotherapy technique, often used in CBT, that is used to identify and change the self-defeating thoughts and beliefs that are behind problematic behaviours such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, overeating certain and so on.
2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is focused on helping people recognize patterns in their thoughts and actions, then changing the way they react to those thoughts. We have our very own CBT expert Rachael who covers anxieties and worries, including overthinking, in some of her lessons and workshops.
3. General Relaxation Techniques
People who suffer from overthinking are often anxious and worried. Relaxation techniques can help reduce this anxiety by calming the mind and body. These techniques include meditation, deep breathing, and yoga as well as others like tai chi and progressive muscle relaxation.
Whilst overthinking disorder isn’t a mental health condition as such, there are plenty of people worried about the extent they’re overthinking. If you feel anxious around daily life and believe overthinking is taking over or making it difficult to do day-to-day activities, then please do seek help from a medical or mental health professional.
You can also access 100s of lessons in breathwork, yoga, CBT, meditation and other relaxation techniques that can help. Check out our membership options here.