why do people overthink

Why Do People Overthink and What Causes Overthinking?

22 July 2021 | by Gina Lucia

Overthinking is something that a huge percentage of the population does on a typical day. If it’s something you struggle with, you’re likely wondering, why do people overthink? 

Whether you find yourself thinking about something you said in the past. Or worrying about a situation that might happen in the future. Overthinking is something we often believe is a personality trait. 

However, overthinking is actually a learned behaviour. So when we’re equipped with the right techniques to combat overthinking, it’s something that anyone can overcome. 

So in this article, we’re going to answer the question: what is overthinking? We’ll also discuss the common causes of overthinking and some of the best techniques to stop it from taking over your life.

what is overthinking

What is overthinking?

As its name suggests, overthinking is when we think too much about a specific situation or incident. When you’re overthinking, you’ll go over the same thought dozens of times. Resulting in you over-analysing even the most simple interactions or events. 

While you might think these thoughts are flippant or shallow, they can often have a huge impact on someone’s life, creating stress and anxiety that may impact daily activities.

When discussing why do people overthink, one of the biggest concerns is when these thoughts start to become negative or unrealistic. Overthinkers often become stuck in indecision and avoid finishing off basic tasks in their life. 

It can also start to take its toll on relationships with yourself and other people, with negative thoughts leaving overthinkers feeling distressed.

To learn how to stop overthinking, one of the key things you need to understand is the problems it may cause in your personal and professional life. 

Keep reading as we explore why overthinking causes problems and the impact it may have on your everyday life.

why overthinking is a problem

Why overthinking causes problems

Overthinking soon begins to take its toll for a variety of reasons. We’ll list each of these below.

You find it hard to make basic decisions

Firstly, you might find you’re completely incapable of making basic decisions and paralysed between choices. 

When our minds spend too much time focusing on an upsetting or distressing situation, we often find this starts to take over our lives. You may struggle to see the positive in your day-to-day life. Which can make spending time with your family or completing work almost impossible.

Your stress levels increase

When we start to overthink, it soon impacts our stress levels and makes us feel anxious about the past and the future. The more we think about the same situation over and over, the more stressed we will become.

Especially as we can’t change anything that’s happened in the past, these thoughts aren’t adding anything positive to our life at the current time. 

In fact, these excessive thoughts can soon make you feel mentally and physically exhausted. Leaving you with little energy to go about your daily work.

For example, if you’re struggling to make a decision about starting a project at work, you’re likely to keep putting it off until the last minute. In the end, this will result in you feeling even more stressed as the deadline approaches, and you’ll upset your boss and colleagues if your work is late.

Healthy working habits are essential for your success, especially with many of us still working from home alone.

You struggle in an emergency

In an emergency, such as if a family member has injured themselves, overthinking about why the incident happened could stop them from receiving the treatment they need. 

When an emergency occurs, we need to focus on immediate problem-solving instead of getting stuck thinking about what could happen or what has already happened.

As you can see from describing what is overthinking, there’s a big difference between overthinking and problem-solving. 

Problem-solving is when you try to find a solution to an issue. But overthinking involves you spending too much time thinking about the issue without making a decision

Overthinking is such a challenging thing to overcome. So to help you understand why it happens in the first place, let’s answer the question: why do people overthink?

what causes overthinking

Why do people overthink? What causes overthinking?

Overthinking happens for a whole variety of reasons, so if you’re wondering why do people overthink? There could be multiple answers to this question. 

Overthinking is a behaviour pattern which we learn over time based on our experiences. However, a certain situation or event can also trigger overthinking. All of us have different personality traits, and individuals who like to control their lives are more likely to find themselves stuck in this situation. 

There are three key reasons why individuals overthink, so let’s take a look at them in more depth.

Stress and anxiety 

If you’ve noticed that you’ve started to overthink more recently, it may be due to increased stress levels and anxiety. 

Anxiety is a response to fear, and it can lead to you thinking too much about becoming ill, your financial situation, or the future. 

When we are in stressful situations, our minds often struggle to make sense of what’s going on. Resulting in overthinking and a tendency to avoid making a decision.

Studies showed that overthinking can start to impact your physical and mental health, trapping individuals in a cycle that they can’t escape. 

Understanding your triggers can be the key to avoiding stress and anxiety-related overthinking. When you avoid putting yourself in situations that increase your stress levels in the first place, you’ll find you have better control over your mind.

Perfectionist or obsessive tendencies 

When thinking about why do I overthink? You may want to consider other habits and tendencies you’ve picked up throughout your life. 

Perfection is something that many of us strive for, but to stop overthinking, you need to try and put aside perfectionism. Individuals with obsessive tendencies may find they struggle to feel in control of their lives. Resulting in them spiralling into overthinking.

Perfectionists are often afraid of judgement from other people and may think long and hard after an event about what they said or did. They also sometimes suffer from low self-esteem, as they never feel they are good enough until they reach their desired standards. 

Overthinking traps them in these thoughts and reinforces the fact that they aren’t doing the best they could be in almost every aspect of their life.

Low self-esteem or self-doubt

Low self-esteem and doubt are something that many of us struggle with. This lack of self-confidence can result in us spending too much time thinking about the past, present, and future. 

When we don’t believe we are worthy of good things happening in our life, such as landing the job of our dreams or being in a relationship with someone. We can often spend so much time doubting ourselves that we don’t start taking steps to overcome these limiting beliefs.

A recent study in the UK shared that focusing on negative events, which were often a result of self-blame and rumination, can be the biggest cause of common mental health issues. All of these issues are so closely linked, and the more time we spend overthinking, the more likely we are to struggle in the future.

Now that you know the answer to why do people overthink and the most common causes of overthinking, let’s discover how to stop overthinking.

Even if you feel overthinking is currently taking over your life. There are ways you can work to minimise this issue and retrain your mind to think rationally and stop ruminating.

how to stop overthinking

How to stop overthinking

If you identify as an overthinker, you’re likely asking yourself how to stop overthinking. 

As we mentioned earlier, overthinking is something that you learn over time. Which means that it can also be stopped or lessened. 

While stopping overthinking won’t happen overnight. By following these three solutions listed below, you’ll find that you can gradually overcome this habit and retain more balance with your thoughts in the future.

Write down your overthinking thoughts

Writing down your thoughts can help to get them out of your mind and allow you to decode them. By writing down what you are thinking about, you’ll be able to come to a natural conclusion about the scenario you are overthinking. 

When you write down your thoughts on paper, you’ll soon be able to decipher whether they are rational or irrational. 

This is an excellent habit to do first thing in the morning and last thing at night. But you can start journaling at any point when you are feeling overwhelmed.

Clear your mind

When we discussed what causes overthinking earlier, if you believe that stress or anxiety triggers your overthinking, clearing your mind should be the first step in stopping this habit. 

A mind reset is something you can do at any time and will help you gain more clarity and calm down. 

By performing a mind declutter or brain dump, you’ll be able to get any anxious thoughts out of your head. Learn more about doing a mind reset with our free guide.

Dig deeper

Sometimes we have to dig a little deeper to find out what is really going on and what triggered overthinking in the first place. 

If you find your overthinking is happening regularly and that it’s starting to impact your everyday life, you’ll want to think about the root cause of the issue. This could be due to limiting beliefs, your perfectionist tendencies, or even past trauma.

By understanding what is causing the issue, you can then seek additional help if needed. 

There are some excellent resources listed on Mind which can assist anyone struggling with their mental health.

Develop a habit to reduce overthinking

Overthinking isn’t going to stop overnight. So we encourage you to keep this in mind when trying out any of the solutions listed above.

By establishing boundaries to try and stop your overthinking as soon as it begins, you’ll be able to gain more control over your thoughts. You’ll also begin to understand what causes overthinking.

Within a few months of putting the solutions listed above into practice, you’ll soon notice a huge difference to your health and wellbeing.

We hope we answered the questios: why do people overthink? And what causes overthinking? But if we missed something, please leave a comment below and we’ll be sure to add it.