If you OVERTHINK, raise your hand

When I was doing my practicum, one of the pieces of advice that I kept with me, was to act as if I were a detective trying to solve the mystery. So, let’s put our Poirot hat on and examine the scenario below. 

“X has been on a few dates with Y, and X likes Y. However, X starts to overthink everything Y says and does. For example, if Y takes longer than usual to respond to X’s text message, X immediately starts to worry that Y has lost interest in X. X analyzes Y’s messages, searching for hidden meanings, and wonders if Y is seeing someone else. X even starts to question Xself, wondering if X said or did something wrong on their last date. Despite Y reassuring X that everything is fine, X’s overthinking and insecurity start to put a strain on their relationship.”

Raise your hand if you’ve pictured by now the situation between X and Y’s relationship by either being in X’s or Y’s position or even as a third-person observer. Now let’s zoom in on the situation. Based on the clues that we have X constantly analyzes, ruminates, and even obsesses over the situation/relationship with Y to the point where it becomes counterproductive and even stressful. Probably, X may be replaying events in X’s mind, focusing mainly on the negative possibilities and having difficulty making a decision or taking action. This pattern of thinking is called overthinking

Unfortunately, this thinking pattern can lead to anxiety, social isolation, a decrease in productivity, sleep problems, and so on. So, why do people adopt this kind of thinking since it’s counterproductive? Truth be told, there are different reasons. Some of the most common may be due to anxiety, fear, uncertainty, trying to be perfectionism, and low self-esteem. Overthinking can also act as a coping mechanism to deal with stress or to avoid making decisions and taking responsibility for those decisions. What is more, some people may tend to overthink due to their personality traits, such as being analytical or introspective. Overthinking can become a vicious cycle, where the more a person overthinks, the more they become stuck in their thoughts, and the harder it is to break out of it.

As with any behavioral and thinking pattern, the first step to changing it is knowing when and how you are doing it. Some ways to deal with the negative impact of overthinking are by practicing mindfulness (e.g., deep breathing) and challenging your thoughts (e.g., distinguishing whether your thoughts are based on facts or assumptions). If you are truly struggling with your overthinking, consider asking for support from a mental health professional. Together, you will find tailored ways, adjusted to your needs to tame your overthinking.