Many of us get caught up in overthinking—excessively analyzing something or dwelling on possibilities. We think about some things—mostly bad things—too much and for too long.
It can be mentally replaying embarrassing moments or worrying about an upcoming meeting. Our thoughts spiral out of control when someone mentions out of the blue that we need to talk.
There are two prevalent forms of overthinking: ruminating (involuntary, compulsive thinking) and worrying (fretting about potential problems or imagining bad outcomes).
Overthinking is very common. In my Traps Test, with responses from more than 600 people around the world so far asking about more than 60 common traps that inhibit people’s happiness and quality of life, overthinking is the top trap.
According to researcher Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, 73% of people aged 25 to 35 admitted to overthinking at some point in their lives. She found that overthinking is more common among women, but common for men too. When author Jon Acuff and Dr. Michael C. Peasley asked 10,000 people if they struggle with overthinking, 99.5% of respondents said “yes.” What’s more, 73% reported that it made them feel inadequate, and 52% said it left them feeling drained.
18 Signs of Overthinking
Overthinking can include the following:
- having trouble shutting off our thoughts
- criticizing ourselves excessively for something we did in the past
- having so many thoughts and not knowing where to begin
- cycling through possible scenarios in our minds
- fearing that we’re not enough and that others will judge us harshly or reject us
- frequently wondering what others are thinking of us
- assuming the worst and imagining terrible outcomes (catastrophizing)
- bombarding ourselves with negative self-talk
- having trouble making decisions
- getting caught up in “analysis paralysis” and not moving forward on things
- second-guessing our decisions
- changing our mind often
- fearing that we’ll never get better or that our situation won’t improve
- mentally replaying awkward moments
- getting stuck in negative thought loops and uncomfortable emotions
- feeling anxious, restless, or unsettled often
- experiencing mental fatigue
- having a hard time focusing on the present moment (because we’re thinking about the past or the future)
“While you were overthinking, you missed everything worth feeling.” -Nitya Prakash, Indian writer
Discover: How to Overcome Overthinking and Get More Done
- To what extent are you struggling with overthinking?
- How is it affecting your mental health and well-being?
- What will you do to tame your overthinking dragons?
Tools for You
“A crowded mind leaves no space for a peaceful heart.” -Christine Evangelou, writer
This article was also published on Gregg Vanourek's LinkedIn.
This article is also available in Chinese.