Is overthinking a mental disorder? (Yes or no?)

 In this guide, we will discuss “Is overthinking a mental disorder?” and how overthinking can actually be considered normal. Moreover, we will discuss the forms of overthinking and how you may know you are an overthinker. Finally, we will see how you could go about stopping yourself from overthinking. 

Is overthinking a mental disorder?

If you are wondering if overthinking is a mental disorder is not as simple as answering yes or no. Overthinking is associated or linked to psychological problems such as depression and anxiety so overthinking alone doesn’t necessarily mean you have a mental disorder. Moreover, overthinking doesn’t have its own category under the diagnostic manuals such as the DSM-5, in its latest version. 

Overthinking can cause mental health to deteriorate or decline, and as your mental health declines then you are more likely to overthink. Everyone over thinks sometimes and it is considered a common reason for consulting a therapist or mental health professional. You may find yourself unable to relax or feeling like your brain won’t shut off.

However, you may think at some point that overthinking is somehow helpful or useful since it seems to help you find better solutions or preventing you from making wrong decisions but this is not necessarily true. 

In fact, the opposite may have (quite often we could say). Overanalyzing when overthinking things can cause ‘analysis paralysis’ and the more you think, the worse you may feel. All the feelings of frustration, anger or anxiety can cloud your judgement preventing you from taking positive action or acting at all.

People who overthink often neglect the happiness and privileges they have around them. For example, someone who over thinks might not be happy with the way his life is because he constantly thinks something bad/negative. For instance, one might state that ‘God i wish i were them‘.

Is Overthinking considered normal?

We could see how overthinking is part of our lives and it is normal, to some extent and when it doesn’t affect your quality of life. For instance, you could be overthinking about the best option to commute to work to attend an important meeting and you don’t want to be late. If we stop to think about it, there are many similar scenarios where we want to make the right choice or pick the best option available to us.

However, as indicated by Sarah Fader from betterhelp.com, “there are harmful effects overthinking can have on a person mentally and emotionally. When overthinking as it pertains to an anxiety disorder, it would be excessive thoughts about something that causes one anxiety, stress, fear, or dread. It’s not just thinking too much about something-it’s obsessing about something so much that it affects one’s ability to function in their life.”

Forms of overthinking

We may find two forms of overthinking: 

  • Ruminating about the past 
  • Worrying about things yet to come (future).

These two forms may be linked to mental illnesses. For instance, when someone is constantly ruminating about the past and what could have been different, they are at risk of depression. With worrying, people often think about what could go wrong in the future, always with a negative or catastrophic approach. In this case we could say they are more prone to developing anxiety disorders.

In contrast, overthinking can be differentiated from problem-solving since the second concept involves thinking about a solution instead of dwelling on the problem over and over again. When dwelling about things, how you feel and the things you actually don’t have control over only feeds the vicious cycle. But are there any signs that you may be an overthinker? Let’s take a look at them.

Sign you are an overthinker

According to Amy Morin, author of ‘13 things mentally strong people don’t do’, indicates 10 signs you could be an overthinker and they are:

  • I relive embarrassing moments in my head repeatedly.
  • I have trouble sleeping because it feels like my brain won’t shut off.
  • I ask myself a lot of “what if…” questions.
  • I spend a lot of time thinking about the hidden meaning in things people say or events that happen.
  • I rehash conversations I had with people in my mind and think about all the things I wished I had or hadn’t said.
  • I constantly relive my mistakes.
  • When someone says or acts in a way I don’t like, I keep replaying it in my mind.
  • Sometimes I’m not aware of what’s going on around me because I’m dwelling on things that happened in the past or worrying about things that might happen in the future.
  • I spend a lot of time worrying about things I have no control over.
  • I can’t get my mind off my worries.

If you have responded yes to at least 6 or 7  of them then you may say you are an overthinker. Becoming aware of the tendency to overthink things can take you to the right direction. However, it is important to break the cycle by being aware of how overthinking does more harm than good. If you are part of the group of people that believes overthinking to prevent bad things from happening let us tell you that is not always the case. 

Subsequently, bad things will still happen independently of overthinking them or not and moreover, bad things that already happen will still be there, unmodified because you can’t change or modify the past so ask yourself, why keep reliving it?

How do I stop overthinking?

As we have mentioned, it is normal to worry about yourself, your family, friends, finances, where to go next, etc., but consider timing or dedicating a certain amount of time to those worries and then consciously stopping, to go on with your day. How can you do this? One of the strategies we propose is keeping a worry journal. Pick a time during the day where you are going to bring all the worries to the table and start writing them down in your journal.

It is extremely helpful if you organize the thoughts from the most worrying to the less worrying so you can take your time with each one. Here comes the fun part, problem solving! When you start analyzing and throwing ideas out there (no matter how crazy they sound), you are able to filter them and pick the best option for you. Consider how there may be some thoughts that are out of your control no matter how hard you think about a solution. 

However, we recommend visiting a mental health professional if overthinking becomes too overwhelming because it can be a symptom of some other mental condition that hasn’t been diagnosed or detected yet.

Why is this blog about ‘Is overthinking a mental disorder’, important?

As we have mentioned, overthinking alone is not considered a mental disorder however it could be detrimental for your mental health where in term, you could develop a mental illness. Moreover, we mentioned how overthinking is considered part of life but up to some extent where it doesn’t negatively impact your day to day activities. 

Additionally, if you can relate to the signs of being an overthinker, you can take the conscious choice to make a change. If overthinking becomes a problem by being too overwhelming and affecting your quality of life then we recommend you seek help from a mental health professional. 

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Is overthinking a mental disorder?

How Do I Stop overthinking?

To stop overthinking, here are some recommendations:

– To begin to make a change, we need to be aware of the problem.

– Instead of thinking about what could go wrong, flip the switch and start thinking about what can go right.

– Distract yourself into happiness.

– Always put things into perspective.

– Stop waiting and wanting to be perfect, perfection is a construct.

– Change the way you feel and perceive fear. Instead of fighting it, acknowledge it and see it as a part of life.

What is overthinking disorder called?

Overthinking is not considered a disorder on its own since occasional anxiety is part of our lives. You have the right to worry about your health, money or family problems but when it becomes too overwhelming, you become extremely worried or nervous about pretty much everything even if there is little to no reason to worry about it,m then you could be experiencing Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Is excessive thinking a disorder?

Excessive thinking per se is not considered a thinking disorder. However, obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental illness characterized by the repeated unwanted thoughts or sensations (also called obsessions) or the urge to do something repeatedly (also known as compulsions). 

How can I divert my mind from overthinking?

Here are some ways you can divert your mind from overthinking:

– To begin to make a change, we need to be aware of the problem.

– Instead of thinking about what could go wrong, flip the switch and start thinking about what can go right.

– Distract yourself into happiness.

– Always put things into perspective.

– Stop waiting and wanting to be perfect, perfection is a construct.

– Change the way you feel and perceive fear. Instead of fighting it, acknowledge it and see it as a part of life.

How do I stop worrying about everything?

If you would like to stop worrying about everything it is important to start by living in the present moment and not in the future with all the ‘what ifs’. Moreover, when we worry about everything is because we tend to see more problems than solutions to them. There are two ways something can go, either the cause of worrying is solvable then start getting ideas or brainstorming and of the worry is not solvable then accept the uncertainty. Think about how, if there is nothing you can do, why worrying? 

How can I stop thinking at night?

If you would like to stop thinking at night start by remembering how getting a good night sleep is essential for you to function properly the next day. Also, try to establish a regular sleep schedule where you go to sleep around the same time and get up around the same time as well. Try keeping a worry journal close by where you can write down your worries, empty your mind and worry about them the next day. 

References 

Morin, A. (2019, Jan.) 10 Signs You’re an Overthinker. There’s a big difference between ruminating and problem-solving. Retrieved from inc.com.

Fader, S. (2020, Jul.) What Is Overthinking Disorder? Retrieved from betterhelp.com.

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