It’s okay to be somewhat reflective and contemplate certain events in your life, such as a meeting with fellow students, a test, or a presentation.
Dwelling excessively and intensely on a single event or moment can lead to the unhealthy habit of overthinking, trapping individuals in a cycle of self-analysis and self-criticism.
If you find yourself in the vicious circle of overthinking and struggle to break free, you’re in the right place.
In this guide, we share essential tips for identifying the issue of overthinking, discuss effective techniques to overcome this destructive habit, and explore beneficial mindfulness exercises to help you return to the present moment.
What Is Overthinking?
As the term suggests, overthinking involves excessive rumination about something that has already happened or is about to happen. While the practice of thoroughly analyzing a specific event or issue may not seem harmful, overthinking can turn your life into a nightmarish loop, fixating on trivial details and preventing you from focusing on things that really matter.
The state of overthinking is the opposite of being present, as it entails constant rehashing of thoughts about the past or future rather than fully experiencing the here and now.
Mindfulness, a technique of noticing and enjoying the present moment, proves challenging for many people, no matter how simple it sounds. As a result, frequent overthinking can contribute to mental health issues, stress, depression, and phobias.
How Many People Tend to Overthink?
If you believe you’re one of the unfortunate individuals plagued by the bad habit of overthinking, we have good news: you’re not alone in facing this issue.
A comprehensive 2003 study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Michigan revealed that the problem of overthinking is alarmingly widespread, especially among young people.
The researchers discovered that 73% of individuals aged 25-35 are prone to overthinking, in contrast to 52% of those aged 45-55 and 20% of individuals aged 65-75.
The statistics are unequivocal – mastering the art of living in the present takes time, a skill that older adults seem to have perfected.
The study also found that women are more prone to overthinking, and this habit leads to detrimental effects on mental health and overall well-being.
Overthinking is associated with depressive re-evaluations of past events, negative thoughts about the present related to those past failures, and a sense of hopelessness about future prospects.
Overthinking is often linked to anxiety, depression, alcohol abuse, and a higher likelihood of experiencing suicidal thoughts.
In this way, overthinkers are more vulnerable to mental health problems and tend to experience significantly lower life satisfaction – a devastating, far-reaching impact that should be avoided at all costs.
Causes & Symptoms of Overthinking
If we look deeper into the psychological mechanisms of overthinking, we’ll find that things work rather simply here.
The human brain seeks to enhance its control over events in a person’s life, thus reducing uncertainty. It considers multiple scenarios of potential events, preparing the person for each one, even if 99% of those situations are unlikely ever to occur.
The causes that trigger overthinking can stem from various life domains:
|Upcoming exams and assignments can lead to excessive stress, making it difficult to stop thinking about them and causing procrastination in the present.
|Past job application failures and apprehensions about an uncertain future may cause employees to remain stuck in their current jobs, preventing them from mobilizing their resources to advance in their careers.
|Previous relationship failures, recent breakups, or other issues may instill a fear of new relationships, leading to negative thoughts, depression, and feelings of loneliness.
In this manner:
The brain’s efforts turn out to be futile and exhausting for the individual, as it exerts much effort due to the person’s low tolerance for uncertainty, fears, past traumas, and perfectionism.
It’s also worth noting that the habit of overthinking may be a hidden symptom of a mental health issue, such as:
7 Signs You Might Be Overthinking
So, how can you detect the habit of overthinking early and take action to curb it?
Here are the most common alarming red flags you may notice:
Fixation on a specific past or future event without the ability to switch to other thoughts.
Excessive focus on your past leading to a deterioration in your mood and a sense of exhaustion.
A surplus of negative thoughts.
A constant state of tension that makes it difficult to relax, unwind, and fall asleep easily.
Thoughts that cause anxiety and worries.
Repeatedly replaying conversations and situations in your mind.
Picturing the worst-case scenarios when thinking about future events.
How Does Overthinking Impact One’s Health?
No matter how innocent and insignificant this habit may seem at first glance, you should be cautious about its far-reaching and accumulating impact on your health and well-being.
Overthinking can lead to problems on both a physical and psychological level.
By leaving this habit unattended, you may develop the following issues.
Written by: Lucas McCarthy at StudyCorgi