Overthinking leads to depression (5 ways to cope)

Today’s blog post focuses on, ‘overthinking leads to depression’. We start by taking detailed understanding of overthinking, which is then followed by understanding the link between overthinking and depression. We then take into account the various symptoms that indicate that overthinking leads to depression. Lastly, we understand the ways of dealing with overthinking.

Overthinking leads to depression:

Overthinking is one of the major factors leading to depression. It is a phenomenon where the mind repeatedly goes over and over the negative events of the past, the problems in the present and the negative things that can happen in future.

We take into consideration a few symptoms that show that a person is overthinking which leads to depression such as:

  • One cannot stop worrying
  • Constantly reminding oneself of the past mistakes
  • Thinking of the what if..
  • Sleep difficulties due to racing thoughts
  • Constantly trying to read between the lines
  • Dwelling or the past 

 All about Overthinking:

Overthinking is a common issue that people often come to therapy for and is seen as a precipitating factor for a number of mental health issues including depression. People sometimes believe that if they think about a problem more, they will be able to come up with a solution to it. However, it is not always true.

Overthinking comprises two forms that is; depressive ruminating about the past, and worrying about the future. 

Depressive rumination is a repetitive and passive brooding of the past events, where the mind goes back to the negative events of the past, over and over again. It involves brooding over the way a particular thing may have been said or a way something would have been done differently.  This can be used to establish the link between overthinking and depression.

Worrying about the future, on the other hand, involves catastrophic predictions about the future events. It involves thinking about all the worst case scenarios that the person thinks may happen in an event in the future. 

Overthinking not only takes place in the form of words, but can also use vivid imagery to contemplate events that may happen or that may have happened. In such situations, overthinking leads to depression and also prevents the person from doing anything productive in nature. 

Overthinking is different from problem solving in that, problem solving involves thinking about a problem in an attempt to find a solution to it. Overthinking on the other hand simply involves thinking about the issue, over and over again with no solution in sight. 

Overthinking is also different from self-reflection. In self-reflection, the person usually gains a new perspective about oneself or learns something new about the self and is purposeful in nature. Overthinking does not lead to any new understanding about the current problems. 

Overthinking can be caused due to lower self-esteem, lowered self-concept, past experiences, trauma and anxiety.

Lastly, overthinking leads to depression to a greater capacity in women as compared to men. Also, it is seen that the Type A personality, marked by ambitiousness, competitiveness and intensity are more prone to overthinking as compared to the Type B personality which is likely to be less frantic and reactive. 

Findings from several experimental and longitudinal studies have suggested that rumination is one of the biggest contributors of triggering and maintaining depression. It essentially means that only making negative interpretations about the self and judgements about the self does not foster depression, rather, constantly thinking about one’s emotions, stress and past events makes the person more vulnerable, indicating the way in which overthinking leads to depression.

Symptoms suggesting that overthinking leads to depression:

We shall now have an elaborate discussion of the symptoms of overthinking that can trigger depression:

  • One cannot stop worrying:

Overthinking may get manifested in the form of  a constant worry that includes all the things that the person does,no matter how minor it may be. The person may constantly worry about the well being of the family, may worry about doing the right thing or saying the right words. It may also be manifested in the form of worrying about the future goals and prospects. 

It also includes worrying about things that a person may have no control over. It can get really overwhelming for someone as they may have an insight that they do not have control over a few things, but may not be able to stop worrying about it.

  • Constantly reminding oneself of the past mistakes:

Overthinking leads to depression even when a person constantly reminds oneself of the past mistakes. Past cannot be undone, but an individual may constantly remind oneself f the mistakes made in the past and hence induce a sense of guilt and self-criticism that may create grounds for depression. 

Excessive guilt and self-criticism can be harmful for the person as it can lead to feelings of irritability, sadness, isolation and anger.

  • Thinking of the ‘what if…’

Overthinking is also often manifested in the form of ‘what if’ scenarios, where the person tends to zoom into the future and tries to visualise what may happen if what they think of comes true. This leads to amplification of their anxiety and this form of overthinking leads to depression predominantly.

  • Sleep difficulties:

Sleep difficulties are a major symptom of depression and it also happens in case of overthinking. Racing thoughts and constant worry often makes a person tired, but at the same time keeps the brain of the person alert for a long period of time, preventing the person from having a sound sleep. It can also be manifested in the form of not letting the person go back to sleep. Constant thoughts immediately start when the person wakes up in the middle of a sleep cycle and may not be able to go back to sleep.

  • Constantly trying to read between the lines:

Another symptom that can indicate that overthinking leads to depression is the tendency to read between the lines. A person is likely to try and find the meaning of what was said or done by another person to find out the actual meaning behind it, when in reality, it may not be the case. Reading between the lines not only exhausts the person, but also makes way for unwarranted worst case scenarios and irrational beliefs. 

In many cases, the person is aware that they might be reading between the lines to a great extent, but are unable to convince themselves against it.

  • Dwelling over the past:

While it is common to look back at the mistakes done in the past once in a while, overthinking triggers constant rumination, so much so that a person may lose touch with the present reality. It often starts a cycle of negative thoughts which is accompanied by the emotions and behaviours that were seen with it. 

Moreover, it also fosters a sense of regret and guilt over past actions. This may also lead to the person to engage in a spiral of self-criticism, self-doubt, fear and sadness. In this way, rumination, triggered by overthinking, leads to depression.

How to deal with overthinking?

Because overthinking leads to depression along with several other mental health issues such as eating disorders, anxiety, substance abuse, it is important to know of ways that can help us manage it.

Overthinking can be managed in the following ways:

  • Practicing mindfulness:

A predominant feature of overthinking is that it makes the person dwell excessively on the past and the future, thereby completely forgetting the present moment. Practicing mindfulness can help a person stay more present focused so that they will be able to better deal with the problem currently at hand and have a more solution focused approach to the future, rather than an approach dominated by worry.

Although it can be achieved through meditation practices, simpler ways to seek mindfulness includes mindful reading, mindful eating, mindful walking etc. when the person is able to fully be present in the smaller things, it becomes easier to deal with the bigger issues.

  • Change focus:

This practice involves conditioning the mind to do something else when overthinking begins. It may include taking up a hobby, going for a drive, cooking a dish, cleaning a room or doing the laundry. It may also include simple listening to music or going for a walk. Changing focus helps in breaking the cycle of thoughts before it gets too overwhelming.

Just the way we have a scheduled time for meals, for studying, for working, we can have a scheduled time for worrying. It involves actively telling the self that it needs to worry only at the designated time. Scheduling a worry time not only gives the person a chance to be more productive, but also ensures that the thoughts are addressed, but only at a given time and not otherwise.

  • Writing down the thoughts:

Too many thoughts in the mind can create a sense of confusion, numbness and make a person tired. What can be done instead is to write down the thoughts as they come to the mind without filtering it or trying to write it in an order. This can help the person understand the link between their thoughts and also help them clear their mind. 

If writing is not really something a person is comfortable with, technology can be used where the person can make voice recordings on the phone and then may choose to listen to them.

  • Understanding the link between thoughts and feelings:

Thoughts and feelings are closely linked. Overthinking not only triggers a chain of negative thoughts, but also a chain of negative emotions,which in turn trigger the thoughts. Regulating one’s emotions can go a long way in changing the way one thinks and can help reduce overthinking.

  • Developing a solution focused approach:

The main purpose of thinking is to come to a solution to a problem. However, overthinking takes a person away from finding a solution, into a spiral where solution is nowhere in sight. Reminding oneself that the real purpose of thinking is finding solutions can help break the cycle of rumination and worrying. Taking control of one’s thoughts is important.

Overthinking eventually becomes a part of the individual’s personality and therefore is difficult to change and get rid of. However, by understanding the ways in which overthinking leads to depression and the various ways in which it be dealt with, managing overthinking can be learnt. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Overthinking leads to depression

Can overthinking cause other mental illness?

Overthinking can also lead to other mental health issues such as anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder.

Is there a drug to stop overthinking?

Benzodiazepines are often used to stop overthinking in anxiety. Other drugs such as xanax, klonopin and Diazepam are also prescribed.

Does overthinking damage your brain?

Stress can kill brain cells and even reduce the size of the brain. Chronic stress can lead to shrinking of the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning.

How do you know if you’re overthinking?

When we overthink, we often replay the conversation in the head repeatedly or imagine something bad may happen. As the mental health deteriorates, rumination increases.

Can overthinking make you crazy?

Overthinking is destructive in nature in that, it can be mentally draining. It can make a person feel stuck, impact day to day life and put one’s health and well being at risk. Overthinking leads to depression and anxiety.


Today’s blog post focused on, ‘overthinking leads to depression’. We started by taking a detailed understanding of overthinking, which was then followed by understanding the link between overthinking and depression. We then took into account the various symptoms that indicate that overthinking leads to depression. Lastly, we understood the ways of dealing with overthinking.