By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
The more you think about things, the worse you feel.
Overthinking, sometimes described as rumination, is a common feature of several emotional problems, especially anxiety disorders. These constant thoughts can leave you both physically and emotionally exhausted. At times, you may feel as though your thoughts are racing away without you. Because you think these thoughts so often and they are so upsetting, you may begin to believe that the things you think about are very real possibilities.
Overthinking what might happen in the future increases your anxiety. Overthinking your past, beyond the point of learning from your mistakes, can result in depression. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that going over and over the same issue in your mind, in the same way, will result in additional insight. Overthinking increases self-doubt. The over-anxious brain is constantly on the lookout for threats and magnifies the smallest risk to terrifying proportions. Here are some of the common causes of overthinking.
Overthinking is about judging yourself too much.
Overthinkers judge themselves more harshly than they judge others. Self-evaluation, looking at both the things you do well and the things that you could improve on can be helpful. If your self-evaluation does not move beyond repeatedly reviewing less-than-perfect behaviors, you are judging yourself too harshly. Using the same scale to judge yourself that you use to judge others can reduce excessive self-criticism and prevent overthinking.
Comparing up causes overthinking.
Overthinkers always compare themselves to others who are better looking, more successful or seem more important. Constantly comparing yourself to others who have more or accomplish more, results in discounting everything you have accomplished. Rather than comparing yourself to someone you admire and feeling you are inferior, look for ways to learn from what they do and improve your performance.
Focusing on the negative increases your anxiety.
When you constantly look for the negative, that’s what you will find. Avoid focusing on what’s wrong in your life. Look for opportunities to improve yourself and the life you’re living. Spend less time thinking about what’s wrong and more time focused on the actions you need to take to reach your goals. Overthinkers look for the negative and disregard the positive.
Too much attention to other people’s opinion is harmful.
If you constantly are focused on other people’s opinions of you, your self-doubt increases. Everyone will have an opinion about your life. Sometimes it’s helpful to seek out advice and information from teachers or mentors. Too much attention to other people’s opinions results in you not having an opinion of your own. Be very careful whose opinion of you receives your attention. You are living a real life, and the person whose opinion matters most is yours.
Not knowing who you are creates confusion.
Not having a clear picture of who you are, results in a great deal of confusion and uncertain. Be careful not to be simply a reflection of other people’s opinions. Get clear on your values, your goals, and the person you want to become. Learning about yourself is one of the most important tasks you will undertake in your life.
Believing mistakes mean you are flawed undermines your self-confidence.
Focusing only on your mistakes put you on the path to overthinking, self-doubt and anxiety. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that you must be perfect to have value. All humans make mistakes. Cut yourself some slack. Accept that making mistakes is a necessary part of learning, growing and becoming who you can be. Learn from life experiences but don’t judge yourself harshly. Looking only at your mistakes leads to a very negative, biased, opinion about your self-worth.
Being overly judgmental of others creates uncertainty.
Avoid judging others using a stretched yardstick. If you expect an unreasonably high standard from others, you will find that you are unable to measure up to the standard you have set. The more judgmental you are of the people you meet, the more difficult it will become for you to feel good about yourself. Humans are not infallible computers, but then computers frequently make mistakes also. Avoid expecting impossibly high standards from yourself or others. Accept that you like all other humans are a work in progress.
Work on making overthinking a thing of the past. If you’re overthinking has gotten out of control, consider working with a counselor or therapist to get your thoughts back on a helpful path.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.