7 Psychological Reasons You Overthink Everything
It’s hard to think of a more universal cause of anxiety, frustration, and stress than overthinking.
Whether it’s worry about the future, rumination about the past, or hypercriticism of other people, our ability to think critically is a double-edged sword we’d all do well to be more careful with.
But before you start trying to stop overthinking so much, it can be useful to understand why you tend to overthink in the first place.
Over the years working as a psychologist, I see the following seven reasons show up over and over again among people who struggle with overthinking.
1. Childhood Learning
Most people with a severe habit of overthinking developed the habit early in life, often as a child. And they usually developed it because, at the time, it was the only way they had to deal with scary, difficult experiences.
For example, as a child of an alcoholic parent, the habit of worrying obsessively about what would happen if dad came home drunk might have served a very useful function then of keeping you safe or out of harm’s way.
But here’s the thing…
The initial cause of overthinking is often very different than the maintaining cause.
While it’s important to understand the origins of your overthinking habit in the past, if you want to stop overthinking so much, you need to understand what’s maintaining your overthinking habit in the present…
“There are all kinds of addicts, I guess. We all have pain. And we all look for ways to make the pain go away.”
― Sherman Alexie
2. The Illusion of Control
More than any other painful emotion, human beings seem to have an especially difficult time with helplessness. We hate feeling helpless!
This is especially true when it comes to the people closest to us — spouses, kids, parents, bosses, etc. When someone we love or care about is suffering, obviously we want to help.