While everyone overthinks a few things once in a while, chronic over-thinkers spend most of their waking time ruminating, which puts pressure on themselves. They then mistake that pressure to be stress. But the average person also just tends to overthink things.
Overthinking can lead to serious emotional distress and increase the risk of mental problems. Thinking about something in endless circles in itself is exhausting. Overthinking can take many forms: endlessly deliberating when making a decision (and then questioning the decision), attempting to mind read and guess what someone else is thinking, trying to predict the future and obsessing over the smallest of details.
People who overthink consistently run commentaries in their heads, criticising and picking apart what they said and did yesterday, terrified that they look bad — and fretting about a terrible future that might await them.
As we have said humans are hard wired to seek danger in situations, and this can also be social threat connected to how someone is with us, whether we have certainty or autonomy. Some have patterns, ‘What if’s’ and ‘should’s’ dominate their thinking, as if an invisible jury is sitting in judgement on their lives. And they also agonise over what to post online because they are deeply concerned about how other people will interpret their posts and updates.
Sleep can be affected because they are ruminating and worrying keep them awake at night. They repetitively go over events, asking big questions: Why did that happen? What does it mean? But they never find any answers.
This kind of thinking can become a habit. And the more you do it, the harder it is to stop. So often people confuse overthinking with problem-solving. But what ends up happening is we end up stuck in a loop – like watching a rubbish programme on repeat!
Overthinking is destructive and mentally draining. It can make you feel like you’re stuck in one place, and if you don’t act, it can greatly impact on your day-to-day life. It can quickly put health and total well-being at risk. Rumination makes us more susceptible to depression and anxiety.
Many people overthink because they are scared of the future, and what could potentially go wrong. Because we feel vulnerable about the future, we keep trying to solve problems in our head. Extreme overthinking can easily sap energy and we can lose a sense of control. It robs us of active participation in everything around us.
Dwelling on the past or the future also takes us away from the present, rendering us unable to complete the work currently on our plates. If you ask ruminators how they are feeling, none will say “happy.” Most feel miserable. Overthinking can trap the brain in a worry cycle. When ruminating becomes as natural as breathing, you need to quickly deal with it and find a solution to it.