Is Overthinking A Mental Illness
“You may have heard the term “”overthinker”” used to describe someone who overanalyzes everything from every little thing they do and why it might be wrong or right? Or maybe you’ve been called a “”nit-picker,”” someone who gets overly involved in minutiae of life that others would consider trivial but are too much for them to handle? You’re an overthinker.
A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research in 2012 reported that people who suffer from obsessive compulsive behaviors were more likely to also have depression. This makes sense because both OCD and depression are characterized by excessive thinking about something (like cleanliness) that doesn’t serve any useful purpose. It can become such a habit that the person becomes fixated on it, unable to let go of his/her thoughts no matter how irrational the fixation seems to be. The same goes for anxiety; when we get anxious about something, our minds start going into panic mode as we overanalyze possible outcomes and worry ourselves into a tizzy.
But there is one type of overthinking that stands out above the rest – overgeneralizing. This is where you take your fears way beyond what actually happens and imagine the worst possible outcome. When this happens, you’ll find yourself worrying about things that never happen. And while you may feel like you’re being paranoid, it could actually prevent you from taking action.
Worrying isn’t always bad. In fact, some amount of healthy worrying is necessary. For example, if you’re concerned about losing money, then having a plan in place to make sure you don’t lose it will help keep you from panicking unnecessarily. But when you continually ruminate on negative scenarios without doing anything to avoid them, it stops you from moving forward.
When you overgeneralize, you’re not only wasting time focusing on the worst case scenario, you’re missing out on opportunities that could arise from positive feedback. So next time you catch yourself overanalyzing, ask yourself whether you’re obsessively dwelling on the worse case scenario or just letting your imagination run wild. If it’s the latter, try writing down the worst possible outcome so you can see what you need to change before you start fretting. Then move on.
3 Signs of Overdoing It
1. Your mind keeps circling back to your worries
If you find yourself constantly coming up with new reasons why something won’t work, chances are you’re overgeneralizing. When you begin to think of all possibilities, you jump through hoops trying to figure out which ones are the most likely, even though you know that’s not helpful. Instead, focus on looking at the big picture and working backward from there instead of jumping ahead to conclusions.
2. You’re using it as avoidance behavior
Sometimes we use overanalysis to avoid dealing with uncomfortable feelings. If you’re feeling worried about speaking up at work or asking for what you want, you may be avoiding making decisions because you’re afraid of rejection. An easy way to tell if you’re overgeneralizing is to look at whether you’re choosing to stay away from situations you fear rather than facing those issues head-on.
3. You’re becoming depressed
This is another sign that you’re overgeneralizing. If you’re experiencing constant sadness despite getting adequate sleep, following a regular exercise routine, eating well, or spending quality time with friends and family, you should talk to a professional. According to the Mayo Clinic, major depressive episodes occur when symptoms last longer than two weeks or cause significant distress. While everyone experiences lows in their lives, clinical depression occurs when you experience extreme low moods that interfere with normal functioning. If you’re sad everyday and feel stuck, you may be suffering from clinical depression. Here’s a list of signs of clinical depression.
How to Stop Generalizing
One of the best ways to combat overgeneralization is to stop generalizing and start seeing each situation as unique. Learn to recognize your triggers and patterns and learn to respond differently. Take a few deep breaths whenever you notice yourself overgeneralizing. Try breathing in deeply and slowly exhaling through pursed lips. Practice slowing down, relax and breathe normally again. Once you calm down, ask yourself, “”What happened here?”” Look at whatever situation arises and ask yourself, “”What was I reacting to?”” By taking these steps, you’ll be able to identify when you’re overgeneralizing and put a stop to it.”
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