Overthinking: What is it and why do we do it?

One thing anxiety will cause is overthinking. We overthink because we try to control what is coming next before it even becomes a reality. How often do you think about the 'ifs' and 'buts', trying to prepare yourself for something that never occurs when you look back at the end of that day? Now, think about the time and energy involved daily, weekly, and monthly. 


How it all started

We come into life with no preconceived experiences; at this point, we have no adverse childhood experiences. In the developmental years, we begin to register what happens to us. The first key area of our experiences becomes our attachment style. The relationship we form with our chief care provider will begin to mould our lives and how we relate to others. In the development and lived experience process, you begin to collect your first views of the world. Social conditioning and the influences around you will cause you to form opinions that form your initial core values and carry over to adult life. 

These became the standards by which you developed your life based on learned behaviour. However, you might be reading this and feeling that some of those values no longer serve you today or that you would like to get past some of those initial feelings. If they were negative experiences, they might have become limiting beliefs so deeply rooted in your subconscious that they will prevent you from moving forward until addressed. 

A typical example might be trust issues, which can stunt relationship growth and stop you from creating the kind of life and relationships you want. So, when overthinking, your mind replays, endorses, and rearranges these prejudices/limiting beliefs, causing a negative internal dialogue, also referred to as the self-talk we give ourselves.

The centre of processed thinking is the conscious mind capable of producing all the thoughts of our lived experience (the 'thinking brain'). This is the centre of pleasant and painful experiences, causing you to obsess, worry, and process what is immediately occurring. According to your experiences, you then react. 

The subconscious mind, however, becomes a reservoir where memories we are not working with become stored as time passes, capable of remembering all events it operates, if you like, as the hard drive of your entire life. All files are kept from the conscious mind in the subconscious mind, including memories we don’t wish to recall to the mind; the subconscious mind does not have a filter, and thoughts from life seep into the conscious mind, causing reactions based on past experiences. 

Yes, overthinking can trigger adverse memories or limiting beliefs from a previous experience. Overthinking becomes a pattern of repeating those negative thoughts to yourself through time because they are encoded in your subconscious mind. Then, as you do that, they become more ingrained in you.

Why we overthink

We overthink to protect ourselves, working our way through all the scenarios that might happen in preparation for the action we will take to try and lower levels of anxiety when faced with a problem. The problem is that an adverse effect, called avoidance, becomes created in the process.

Suppose everything is caused because of high levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. The process of overthinking will increase stress, anxiety, and depression in a constant cycle until we learn to break the cycle. The more time we spend thinking about what could go wrong, the less prepared we are to try new things. Have you ever had a great idea only to talk yourself out of it before thinking it through?

When we do this, we create limiting beliefs and increase current levels of anxiety in the body, placing ourselves in a prepared position of fight or flight for something that might never even happen; this burns high levels of energy. Overthinking in itself is not a recognised mental disorder; however, it can lead to anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression if we remain with the negative thoughts.

We must be willing to rid ourselves of the beliefs that control and govern us but no longer serve us. If you feed your mind with negativity, worry, and fear, they will manifest themselves in reality. Only your conscious mind can reject negative or limiting beliefs. It is the gatekeeper to your convictions.

Remember that power. Remember your potential to renew yourself into whoever you want to be.

How to stop overthinking

So, how do you move past your problem if you feel stuck? If you constantly look for evidence to support what you already know about your current situation, you will develop confirmation biases and not be likely to create a mind-shift. To make lasting change, we must be prepared to examine our current thinking and look for new arguments to support new beliefs and make significant changes.

Looking at how we can begin work on any of the issues we have looked at in this article can be a great place to start.

Do you feel anything holding you back, and you don’t seem to be able to get past it alone? If you feed your mind with negativity, worry, and fear, they will manifest themselves in reality. We become what we think and, in turn, feel. Only your conscious mind, the thinking part of your brain, can reject negative or limiting beliefs. It is the gatekeeper to your convictions. Remember that power. Remember your potential to renew yourself into whoever you want to be.

You have the power to understand yourself better, create and achieve your goals, conquer fear, and become calmer and more enthusiastic as you work toward your dreams. The key is what story you choose to repeat to yourself. Rather than repeating the old story your limiting beliefs tell, you can turn it around. You can choose a new story. You can be happy, at peace, fearless, and successful. Allow yourself to be mentally healthy and live a significant life.

I am qualified to help you make the journey out of stress and anxiety. Remember to save my page. Please click the website at the top of my profile for full details on how I can begin helping you today. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Written by David Pender, MBACP, Integrative Psychotherapy | Anxiety Specialist
London E1 & E14

David Pender M.B.A.C.P BA(Hons) Anxiety and stress management Life can be challenging when you feel constantly stressed or suffer from anxiety. Finding the correct help for your individual circumstances can be difficult. Try a free discovery call today if you feel ready to commit to a counselling relationship that will bring out your best self.

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