Is catastrophizing ruining your life?

By David Joel Miller.

What is catastrophizing?

Catastrophizing

Catastrophizing.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Catastrophizing is a way of looking at life, always searching for the “worst case” possibilities. In recovery circles, this can be described as having a “magical magnify mind.” There are times when considering the worst possible alternative can protect you from bad life outcomes, other times it can make you miserable. Adopting catastrophizing as your default way of thinking has been tied to pessimism and many mental illnesses.

Wikipedia defines catastrophizing as “Giving greater weight to the worst possible outcome, however unlikely, or experiencing a situation as unbearable or impossible when it is just uncomfortable.”

Catastrophizing and mental health.

Ellis (1962) created the term ‘‘catastrophizing’’ to describe a tendency to magnify a perceived threat and overestimate the seriousness of its potential consequences.

Beck in his work on cognitive behavioral therapy created a list of “cognitive distortions,” which are factors in creating and maintaining some mental illnesses. Recently cognitive therapists, have begun referring to these thinking patterns as “unhelpful thoughts.”

One of these unhelpful thoughts is magnification, a cognitive process in which people who are depressed create exaggerated beliefs which bias their thinking in a negative direction (Beck 1963, 1964.)

When you don’t know what causes bad events, the consequences are magnified. Catastrophizing is an unhelpful way some people use to try to find the causes of bad events in their life and to try to prevent future unpleasant consequences.

Other definitions of catastrophizing.

Catastrophizing involves focusing on the difficulty and negative aspects of a stressor. Catastrophizing is envisaging the worst results of a negative event.

Catastrophizing is an automatic “what if” questioning style, causing an individual to iterate about a particular problem and perceive possible outcomes as threatening (Kendall & Ingram, 1987; Vasey & Borkovec, 1992).

Mental illnesses are connected to catastrophizing.

Many of the things we call mental illnesses lie on a continuum from mild to severe. It’s quite common for people with one mental illness to also show symptoms of other mental illnesses. How a specific mental illness will affect you is also the result of the interaction between that illness and you. Your life experiences, your genetics, your personality, and how you go about thinking about the world, all play roles in your risk for having a particular mental illness and your path towards recovery from that illness. Below is a brief review of some the research about the connections between catastrophizing and mental illnesses.

Chronic pain is made worse by Catastrophizing.

Many studies have found a connection between catastrophizing and disability from chronic pain. Catastrophic thinking in the pain field was defined as ‘‘an exaggerated negative orientation toward pain stimuli and pain experience’’ (Spevak and Buckenmaier 2011.) Focusing on your pain seems to magnify it. Catastrophizing about your pain, imagining all the possible connections between your pain and serious illness, increases the pain’s impact on your life

Stanford Pain Management Center conducted a pilot program which involved a 2-hour class on pain and pain catastrophizing. The class significantly reduced patients catastrophizing about pain. I have to wonder if more information about mental and physical issues wouldn’t reduce people’s worry and result in significantly less catastrophizing.

The connection between chronic pain and catastrophizing is especially strong in the research on fibromyalgia. “Several factors of pain appraisal contribute to the pain experience. The most outstanding ones are pain catastrophizing, fear of pain, and vigilance to pain. In FM patients, pain catastrophizing has been associated with pain intensity and impairment” (Mart´ınez, S´anchez, Mir´o, Medina, & Lami,2011.)

“Among the most widely researched psychological factors in recent years, pain catastrophizing has shown consistent and robust associations with acute and chronic clinical pain as well as experimental pain responses” (Fillingim.)

Panic disorder is fueled by catastrophizing.

“People with panic disorder misinterpret their physical symptoms as catastrophic and indicative of imminent danger, leading to panic attacks” (Ottaviani and Beck 1987.)

Phobias may be created and maintained by catastrophizing.

The pattern of jumping to the most negative consequences, catastrophizing, is common in social phobia, agoraphobia, and specific phobia. In social phobia, people expect to be judged negatively and are on the alert for clues of rejection. This can result in being socially awkward and creating the social rejection they fear. Agoraphobia, the fear of the marketplace, or the fear of being out in public, is characterized by a fear that something bad will happen and the person will not be able to escape or get help. Specific phobias frequently involve overestimating the chances the thing that scares you will be present or will harm you.

Somatic Symptoms and Related Disorders are connected to catastrophizing.

In the past, this was often called Health Anxiety Disorder. Recently this was reorganized and is now considered a group of disorders. Somatic Symptoms Disorder (300.82) involves a focus on one or two symptoms which the patient comes to believe indicate they have a serious undiagnosed medical illness. Illness Anxiety Disorder (300.7) is a constant preoccupation and worry that you will contract a serious illness. Catastrophic thinking plays a role both in creating and in maintaining all the health-related anxiety disorders. This group of disorders frequently involves intrusive, distressing images of being sick or dying.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder involves catastrophizing.

OCD has two main components, intrusive thoughts, and the need to perform rituals to prevent those imagined consequences. These intrusive thoughts are primarily catastrophic in nature. When you continue to imagine worst-case, dire consequences which can only be prevented by your performing some ritual, it becomes hard to resist the impulses.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is connected to catastrophic thinking.

Catastrophic thinking appears to contribute to the creation and worsening of all the trauma and stressor-related disorders. Having experienced a traumatic event, you are more likely to imagine similar events occurring again. Constantly checking your environment for potential danger and then catastrophizing about what you see appears to contribute to the maintenance of PTSD.

Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event develops PTSD. People who habitually practice catastrophic thinking are at increased risk of developing PTSD should they experience a trauma (Bryant, Guthrie, 2005.)

Some studies have reported a connection between catastrophizing and fatigue.

Catastrophizing is often observed in anxiety.

“Chronic worry is known to be a feature associated with most of the anxiety disorders and most specifically with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)” (Brown, Antony, &Barlow,1992).

According to the most recent diagnostic categorization, the cardinal diagnostic feature of GAD is “excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation) … which the individual finds difficult to control” (APA, 2000, p. 476).

Catastrophizing creates Hopelessness Depression.

Hopeless depression is not a specific diagnosis. Counselors see a great many people who have lost hope. Hopelessness and a sense that the future will never be any better are common symptoms reported by people suffering from depression. Even before it reaches the level of clinical depression, a lack of hope and catastrophizing greatly increase the risk that today’s problems will become tomorrow’s depression.

“Catastrophizing (consistently inferring catastrophic consequences resulting from a negative event), has been posited as a specific risk factor for depression” (Abramson et al. 1989).

Paranoia and catastrophizing.

The emotional regulation strategies “blaming others and catastrophizing were positively correlated with paranoia and anxiety” (Westermann, et al., 2013.)

“Worry is a significant concern for patients with paranoia. Worry in paranoia is likely to be caused by similar mechanisms as worry in emotional disorders. The results support the recent trial findings that standard techniques for treating worry in anxiety, suitably modified, are applicable for patients with paranoia” (Startup, et al., 2016.)

Poor sleep is caused by Catastrophizing.

Many research studies have shown direct connections between rumination, catastrophizing, and impaired sleep. Here are a couple of quotes from the research literature.

“Poor sleep quality, including difficulties falling asleep and waking during the night, commonly occur in early adolescence” (Carskadon, 2010).

“Up to 40% of adolescents experience some form of sleep difficulties at some point during adolescence” (Meltzer & Mindell, 2006)

Rumination magnifies your problems.

If your thinking style involves catastrophizing, looking for the worst-case scenarios, try to limit the time you spend considering alternatives. Unfortunately, people who catastrophize also tend to ruminate, going over and over the same material finding ever-increasing awful consequences. If catastrophize and ruminating are destroying your mental health, consider professional help before the problems of daily living become a serious mental illness.

More information about this topic and related subjects is found under Psychology

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

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.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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.

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Why you are indecisive.

By David Joel Miller.

Having trouble deciding?

Indecisive

Indecisive.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Some people make sudden impulsive decisions and regret them later. Other people spend a lot of time trying to decide and may let opportunities pass them by without ever deciding. How is someone supposed to know when to make a quick decision and when to spend a lot of time thoroughly thinking things through?

If you’re one of those people who has difficulty making decisions, there may be some very important reasons why you have those deciding difficulties. Here are some reasons you may be chronically indecisive and what to do about it.

You don’t have all the information you would like.

Unfortunately, almost no one, ever, has all the information they would like. Sometimes the facts don’t turn up until after you made your decision. Think about how important this decision is to the rest of your life. Picking a person to marry, that’s a big decision. Once you’re married, there will be consequences if you try to end the relationship. Other decisions, like what clothing to wear today, will have a lot less importance.

You’re afraid of making the wrong decision.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a book somewhere that listed all the right decisions and the wrong ones for your life? The difficulty with that is that if I made you up that book, they would be my decisions, not yours. During your life, you’ll need to make a lot of decisions. Some of them will be right, and some of them will be wrong. Bear in mind that not deciding is, in fact, a decision. By not deciding you are deciding to do nothing.

You think you must choose between A and B.

Many people debate for a long time between two choices. Sometimes this is a choice between the best bad choice. Other times it’s a choice between the better good. The first thing to ask yourself is, are there only two choices? Have you artificially limited your alternatives?

Do a little brainstorming and see if there might be other choices. This might be a good time to seek advice from an expert in the field. If this is a once-in-a-lifetime choice, it bears a little indecision. If this is choosing what to have for dinner, don’t starve to death waiting to make your choice.

You’ve developed the habit of avoiding decisions.

If you grew up or have lived in poverty, you may have developed a scarcity mindset. If you spend money on the power bill, you may not have money for food. You may have developed the habit of waiting until the last possible second to decide because your resources are so limited. If that’s a cause of your indecision, work on getting yourself out of that scarce resource situation. Spend less, get a better paying job or a second job, find a way to make ends meet.

You gave up your right to decide.

Some people have avoided decisions by allowing others to decide for them. You may have come from a home where one of your parents made all the decisions. You may have grown up and gotten into a relationship with a partner who is controlling and wants to make all the decisions. You may have been one of those people who has avoided the anxiety of making decisions by numbing yourself out with drugs or alcohol. You can either decide to take back control of your life or decide to do nothing. The choice is up to you.

You don’t trust yourself to decide.

Low self-esteem can result in the inability to make decisions. Lots of people believe they need to always think rationally. Rational can be good. But that gut instinct has a place also. Learn to listen to your feelings, your intuition. For everyday decisions, what to eat, what to wear, you can go with your default choice. For major life decisions spend some time examining your feelings.

You don’t know what your values and goals are.

It’s hard to make decisions when you don’t know who you are and what you want out of life. When we are young, it’s common to be confused about our values. Some people adopt the values of their parents, their society, a political party, or religion. Eventually, most people should ask themselves if they believe this only because their parents did, or because the candidate from their political party told him to believe it.

Once you know who you are, what your core values are, it will be easier to set goals. Make your decisions ones that will take you to your life goals. Just make sure the path you take to your goals is consistent with your values.

You haven’t developed the right decision-making habits.

Making decisions needs to become a habit. Become more conscious of what you choose as you go through your day. Did you watch TV just because it was on? Why did you pick a particular place to go? The big box retailers know that if they get you in the door three times in a row coming to their store will be a habit. If you do something repeatedly without thinking about it, these actions become your habit. Re-examine the things you do out of habit and decide to live life more consciously.

Hard to decide when you don’t know who you are.

You are going to spend your whole life with you. Stop avoiding looking at yourself. You will make mistakes just like everyone else. Your life experiences will shape your life. The thoughts you have repeatedly will be what you believe about yourself and the world. When you know who you are, making decisions becomes less of an effort.

Your mental health is getting in the way of your deciding.

People with untreated depression find they can’t make decisions. If you are high in anxiety, your fear may be using so much of your brain; there’s nothing left to make decisions with. Your overthinking may have become a disease. If you have a mental, emotional, behavioral, or substance use problem, it will keep you from making good decisions. Get help for your thinking, feeling, and behaving issues, and making decisions will become far easier.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

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.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Could your overthinking be an illness?

By David Joel Miller.

Overthinking leads to mental health problems.

Overthinking, that constantly turning problems over in your mind, sometimes called rumination, may be a symptom of an existing or developing

Overthinking

Overthinking.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

mental illness. Constantly second-guessing your past leads to depression. Having doubts about the future increase your anxiety. How many of these overthinking problems are you experiencing?

Am I good enough?

Continually wondering how you compare to others can be a sign of social or performance anxiety. Accepting yourself as you are while striving for self-improvement will increase your mental health. Constantly comparing yourself and judging everything you do results in the bias of only seeing your faults and never recognizing your strengths.

Should I have said that?

Extreme concerns over what you should say or didn’t say is another sign of social anxiety. For many situations, there is no correct response. In social situations strive to be your genuine self. You can reduce the number of social errors you make by pausing before speaking. Not every thought should escape from your mouth. Learn from any mistakes you make but avoid continually rehashing every conversation.

You have a bad case of the “what if’s.”

If you are constantly on the alert for any presence of threats, you may have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Some people develop this condition because of past stress or trauma. But if you instinctively look for every possible way in which something could go wrong, you’ve developed the overanxious condition professionals call Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Most time spent on what if’s will be time wasted on thinking about unlikely possibilities. Focus your efforts on high probability events.

You worry about having an undiagnosed illness.

Worry about having an illness that hasn’t been diagnosed can be the result of a Somatic Symptom Disorder or an Illness Anxiety Disorder. When you have concerns about your health see your Dr. If your symptoms are severe, you may want to get a second opinion. Continuing to worry that you might develop an illness robs you of the opportunity to enjoy the life you have.

You worry about leaving the house.

This condition is called Agoraphobia, which translates to fear of the marketplace. People who worry constantly and excessively about leaving the house can also be afraid of crowds and meeting strangers. If you have this worry, seek professional help before your fears hold you prisoner in your own home. Agoraphobia can hold you hostage and deprive you of your family, friends, and your job.

You worry about having another panic attack.

People who are prone to panic attacks often know that the symptoms they have are from a panic attack. Still, during a panic attack, you may worry that this time you actually are having a heart attack or that you will not be able to catch your breath and will suffocate. It’s common for people with panic disorder to fear being somewhere where they will not be able to get help.

You fear something bad will happen and you need to do a ritual to prevent that.

This type of repetitive overthinking is characteristic of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. While the person with this disorder may know, the fear is irrational; they still feel compelled to do a repetitive behavior in the belief that this will prevent the danger.

Overthinking, or rumination can be both a cause of and a symptom of a serious mental health problem. If your overthinking is undermining your happy life, seek help.

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.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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.

Overthinking takes you nowhere.

By David Joel Miller.

Thinking the same thoughts over and over does not lead to insight.

Overthinking

Overthinking.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

In overthinking you get stuck on thinking the same thoughts over and over. To gain insight, you need to think about things from a different perspective. Take a break from your problems, sleep on it overnight, have some fun, and your problem is likely to look different the next time you think about it.

Overthinking is sometimes described as racing thoughts. These racing thoughts are different from the kind of out of control thoughts described in Bipolar Disorder. Overthinking is related to anxiety disorders in that these thoughts look like a hamster in his wheel, running as fast as he can around and around in the same place. In overthinking your thoughts take you nowhere but they do increase your anxiety. The racing thoughts of bipolar take you farther and farther into grandiose beliefs and urges.

Things will change whether you think about them or not.

Whether you think about it or not the weather will change. You can prepare for the weather but worrying about it will neither prevent the storm nor make it worse. Know that, regardless of what you think, the summers and winters will come. Overthinking steals your life.

The time you spend overthinking is time you are not doing.

Living is about the things you do, not the things you think about doing. The best way to prepare for the future is by living today. It’s easy to stay busy thinking about the past, worrying about the future, all the while avoiding taking action in the present.

Don’t believe everything you think.

Sometimes we take our own thinking as evidence for the truth of what we believe. IF something is making you anxious, you need to take a good look at it, and sometimes you need to listen to your gut. Consider however that just because something scares you that does not make it dangerous. Often our preconceived views of things turn out to be wrong. Be careful that you don’t jump to the conclusion and then because you think it; you look for evidence to support that view.

Don’t recruit others to overthink with you.

Group overthinking has been called co-rumination. If every time you get together with your friends, you go over and over the same problems in life, these relationships have moved from being supportive to keeping you stuck in your problems. You don’t need half a dozen people helping you think about how awful things are.

The more baggage you accumulate, the harder it is to move forward.

Do you have a lot of baggage from the past? Do you spend a lot of time taking it out, looking it over and then packing it up again to take it with you into the future? Constantly dwelling on the mistakes and the pain of the past keeps you stuck. Learn life’s lessons but be careful not to carry any more baggage into the future than is absolutely necessary.

Overthinking prevents you from making decisions.

The more you think about something, the harder it may be to decide. Unfortunately, not deciding and not acting are decisions. Don’t let overthinking make your decisions for you by preventing you from ever doing something which might benefit you.

Overthinking destroys your creativity.

Creativity is about new ways of looking at things and new ways of combining them. If you are stuck in overthinking and worry about what the right way to do something is, you will become afraid to take the chances necessary to be truly creative. Overthinking will tell you that there’s only one correct answer and you need to find that answer. Creativity will tell you that there are many possible solutions and the more open you are to those solutions the more creative you will become.

Overthinking tells you there’s only one way to do things.

The longer you think about things more likely you are to doubt each possibility. Overthinking by pointing out the pitfalls of potential decisions takes away your choices. If you want to be truly free, don’t let your worried mind tell you that you shouldn’t make the choices that appeal to you. Often when presented with a choice, our first thought is the correct one. People who are high in test anxiety often find the more they go over their answers and change them, the lower their test score goes. Don’t let overthinking talk you out of the choice that’s right for you.

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.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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.

How to stop overthinking.

By David Joel Miller.

Overthinking is harmful to your mental health.

Overthinking

Overthinking.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

People who do a lot of overthinking, sometimes called rumination, increase their anxiety and their sadness. Unchecked overthinking, far from being helpful, can result in worry and leads to mental health issues such as anxiety disorders and depression. In overthinking your mind becomes your adversary, not your ally. If your mind is constantly turning things over and over and is wearing you out or if you find your overthinking has begun to interfere with your sleep and your relationships, it’s time to do something to put a stop to that over thinking.

If you suffer from overthinking here are some ways to get off that destructive path.

Notice when you overthink.

Overthinking can become an insidious habit. Become aware of when you are feeling distressed or anxious. The first step in getting overthinking out of your life is to become aware of how frequently you are overthinking. Avoid the trap of overthinking your overthinking.

Practice thought stopping.

When a child is doing something, they shouldn’t, we tell them to “knock that off.” When your mind starts taking you into bad neighborhoods, tell that mind to “stop that.” Another technique for stopping negative thoughts is to shift your focus to something positive. Search your memory for the happiest event in your life or imagine a happy event. When your brain begins to overthink possible negative occurrences, tell it to move to the positive.

Focus on the things that are likely to happen.

Most worry and overthinking is the result of an excessive focus on things that might or could happen but are very unlikely. Don’t spend large amounts of time thinking about things that are unlikely to happen. Most of the things we worry about never happen. Overthinking low probability events distracts you from dealing with the things that need doing today to prevent problems in the future.

Become a happiness expert.

Overthinking makes you an expert on unhappiness. Having a laser focus on what could go wrong obscures your vision of what could go right. People who are high in anxiety and depression develop a cognitive bias towards the negative. They don’t see the positive in their lives, and when they do they discount it. Notice small positive events in your life. When something good happens, don’t blink right away. Continue to look at and think about those positive, happy occurrences.

Avoid perfection paralysis.

Frequently people who are high in overthinking consider themselves perfectionists. An excessive focus on a perfection can leave you paralyzed. Pursue excellence. Try to become the best person possible, but avoid an emphasis on absolute perfection. Whatever you achieve should be valued.

Accept yourself as you are.

Failure to accept yourself, as you are, leads to a lot of unhappiness. However, you are, is perfectly acceptable. Acceptance values how far you have come. If you spend all your time looking for flaws you will miss your unique, individual qualities. Acceptance of yourself, others as they are, and the world the way it is rather than insisting that people places and things must be the way you want them to be will increase your happiness and reduce your anxiety provoking overthinking.

Inventory what you have not what’s missing.

Our society today, with its emphasis on the lifestyles of the rich and famous, has resulted in a lot of people believing their life is missing something. Constantly thinking about what’s missing from your life robs you of the enjoyment of the things you do have. When your focus is on keeping up with the Trumps, you will never have enough. When you adopt an attitude of gratitude, you can enjoy the people and the things you do have rather than grieve over your lack of those things that others have.

Take the long view.

Overthinking takes the short view. The focus is on what’s lacking now, the problems of today. Ask yourself what difference today’s problem will make 20 years from now? How about 50 years from now? When you start focusing on where you want to be in the future the problems of today shrink and become insignificant.

Reframe the scary as exciting.

Before an athletic contest, teams try to psych themselves up. If you expect to be beaten badly, it will take all the energy out of your performance. Worry about failing a test is likely to result in lower scores. Go into life’s adventures expecting them to be exciting and regardless of what you do you can have fun. Focusing on the scary parts of life prevents you from ever-living.

Get into action.

A great way to overcome overthinking is to get into action. Stop ruminating about what could go wrong and start doing. Some of what you do today will be the great memories you will be storing up for the future.

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.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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.

Do you overthink things?

By David Joel Miller.

The more you think about things, the worse you feel.

Overthinking

Overthinking.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

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.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

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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.