How can I tell if I’m an overthinker?
Using your brain to analyze problems is a great skill. However, when overused, it can actually increase anxiety and make decisions more difficult. Often called “Analysis Paralysis,” overthinkers often get stuck in their head and distracted from the present moment
Some overthinkers analyze the past with repetitive rumination, such as imagining how they could have approached something differently, analyzing social missteps, or replaying certain events over and over. Other overthinkers may be more future oriented, relying on worry, planning, or catastrophizing to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity.
Overthinkers tend to feel like they aren’t able to stop thinking, and may start to miss out on life because of their preoccupation with thinking. They might start to avoid making decisions, or feel like they can’t stay “in the moment” with family and friends.
How do I stop Overthinking?
First, you must understand the two kinds of thinking: automatic thoughts vs. mental analysis. Automatic thoughts are incredibly difficult to control, whereas mental analysis is a behavior one can learn to stop through attentional shifting techniques, mental defusion, and exposure exercises.
Worrying, ruminating, or analyzing is often done in response to anxiety. However, this kind of thinking actually reinforces the original anxiety response! Worrying, planning, and ruminating can give a temporary illusion of control, although it increases the likelihood of more anxiety in the future.
Thinking is often a useful tool, so we wouldn’t want to stop it altogether! Reducing anxious thinking requires knowing when analyzing is helpful, when it is harmful, and how it may be functioning as avoidance of anxious feelings.
Treatment for overthinking incorporates tools from Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).