17 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because You're Overthinking
If you’re not an overthinker, it can be hard to understand why seemingly “simple” things are just so hard for some people. I mean you’re ordering lunch, not negotiating a terrorist hostage situation! But for people with anxiety who have the tendency to overthink, everything can feel like a high-pressure situation.
What if you make the wrong decision? What if this is the one dish that will give you food poisoning? What if you don’t like the food, so you don’t finish your plate, so you offend your friend who loves this restaurant and they never want to hang out with you again?
You get it. For overthinkers, it can go there.
If you’re someone who overthinks, and it’s impacting your life in a negative way, there are things you can do that help. (Hint: seeking reassurance only makes the urge worse long-term, so resist when you can!) But — it’s also important for others to be understanding. Someone who struggles with overthinking isn’t upset for “no reason” or just being dramatic, and we can only help people work thought their overthinking when we lead with compassion.
To find out what others don’t realize people are doing because they’re overthinking, we consulted with the wonderful overthinkers in our mental health community. If you can relate, don’t forget to have compassion for yourself, and know even if you’re still working on it, you’re not alone.
Here’s what they shared with us:
1. Asking the Same Question Over and Over…
“Ask the same question(s) multiple times. I did not forget the answer, my overthinking is telling me the answer has changed.” — Marrisa E.
“I ask a lot of questions. A lot. I think it comes across as an interrogation, or that I am questioning the person as an individual rather than just asking questions in general. I’m just trying to work out all the details, scenarios, outcomes or options.” — Rachael A.
“I have plans for literally everything that I do and for every decision that I make. If I have it all planned out, then I feel like I have more control of the outcome of the situation, even if it’s a bad one. Because by that point I’ve figured out that somewhere along the way something was probably not going to go well and I’ve already thought of another plan to deal with the bad outcome.” — Victoria D.
“Plan. Everything. And then plan for all the alternatives. Pack everything when going on a trip. Or away from the house for a few hours.” — Kristy G.
“I have to know times and dates for things months in advance. I have to plan when I wake up, what I wear, if I’ll even go, everything. When someone doesn’t give me a time, I panic. And if I am even one minute late, I get upset and panic and feel like I failed.” — Kaitlyn L.
“Over-explaining myself. Talking in too much detail and then feeling embarrassed about how long I’ve been talking for.” — Hannah B.
4. Asking for Reassurance
“Asking for constant reassurance on matters that may not bother an ordinary person and also overexplaining things to people (as in giving too many details in an attempt to make sense).” — Hannia I.
“Always asking for reassurance. Because your mind is always telling you different stories every minute. Your need for reassurance is not something to be taken lightly but people do not understand that and instead, start to push you away. That just made the overthinking worse.” — Ros H.
“Asking my husband 100 times a day if he’s really happy with me even though he tells me 101 times a day that he is very happy with me.” — Abbey R.
5. Spacing Out/Getting Distant
“I get distant like I’m not fully there. I’ll just stare off into space. If they noticed I just give a, ‘Sorry I spaced, you were saying..?’ And hope they keep going without asking questions.” — Jennifer K.
“I become more distant than I usually am, stare off into space, draw blanks, stutter when someone asks me something, etc. I get dirty looks from it. ‘You’re not listening,’ responses like that. I get lost in thoughts, stress out if they’re bad or too much, and then end up with headaches, which are also complained about.” — Raven A.
“Zoning out. I use it to think about the possible upcoming situations that can happen in my planned day. When I zone out, it’s when my mind plays out every possible — and even some impossible — situations that could happen during the day’s activities.” — Liv W.
6. Apologizing for No Reason
“I get worried when there’s an even slight change in the person’s tone and start apologizing for things I might’ve done wrong. Like, sorry for being annoying, sorry I care so much about this, sorry I was talking too much.” — Brittney P.
“You apologize for every little thing because your mind is telling you that people are mad at you for stepping on their toes. You feel super bad when you unintentionally hurt someone and you will apologize a million times.” — Ros H.
“Saying sorry when there is nothing to be sorry about. It is just my way of making sure that my own thoughts aren’t escaping my head. Makes people feel weird and random, but probably not as weird as I feel having to say sorry without even knowing why.” — Marika K.
“I put off necessary things like medical appointments, because I overthink whether it’s important enough or not. I also feel I would waste a doctor’s time with my ‘minuscule’ problem, that people will think I’m an attention-seeker. So eventually I end up with so much anxiety, I don’t seek the help. Then I feel both relieved and unhappy, because I’m stuck with the medical problem, but I avoided what I was anxious about. It takes a lot of prodding from friends and family to finally go. I promised someone two weeks ago I would seek help, but I’ve been putting it off again. Anytime I think about calling for an appointment, I feel stressed.” – Andrea G.
8. Having Trouble Making Decisions
“I’m indecisive. I spend so much time trying to calculate all the pros and cons of any decision. People tell me to ‘just decide!’ But it’s not that simple for me. My brain is going over 30 possibilities for one thing. Deciding in a split-second makes me uncomfortable, especially because during the time I’m forced to choose quickly, I spend the time after my decision mulling over what could have happened instead and how I would have been happier with that other choice. I don’t like to make decisions without seriously thinking it over. To cope with that I’ve tried to give myself the same choice and make the same decision. Like I always get the same meal at a restaurant because experience has taught me I don’t regret that choice.” — AnaLucia P.
9. Canceling Plans
“I end up canceling plans, whether it’s plans with someone or plans I made for myself only, because I keep thinking something horrible is going to happen, or that the people I was supposed to hang out with hate me and just made plans with me out of pity. Ot even that I will forget to lock the door and someone will break in while I’m gone.” — Armandina L.
10. Taking a Long Time to Answer
“Not responding right away when I am asked a question.” — Robin W.
“Taking a long time to answer, because I’m mulling everything over too much. Bursting into tears because I’ve gone from zero to 60 in 10 seconds and have just imagined the worst case scenario that I can’t imagine dealing with.” — Amy L.
11. Constantly Criticizing Yourself
“I’ll constantly criticize how I do things, say wiping a bench or something. I’ll think, ‘Oh god, did I do this right?’” — Stella B.
12. Overanalyzing Social Interactions
“Replay conversations over in my head to make sure I didn’t say anything to offend anyone. Overanalyzing people’s facial expressions and body language, feeling that my conversation is boring them.” — Donna S.
“Analyzing their every little facial micro-expression, let alone any minute change in their vocal inflection.” — Ursula A.
13. Getting Quiet
“Being withdrawn and quiet, getting so caught up in making sure I heard them right and making sure I don’t say anything foolish that I barely say anything or include myself in social situations unless it’s close family (not extended, even).” — Rach M.
“Get really quiet because I don’t want to say anything wrong.” — Destiny V.
14. Assuming People Are Mad at You
“Questioning if someone is mad at me over and over. I take the smallest change in tone or facial expression as a sign they don’t like me or are annoyed with me. Then I think of every scenario I may have annoyed them in the recent past.” — Rachel A.
“Feeling that close friends want nothing to do with me, or want me out of their life if I have not communicated with them in a while.” — Kevin M.
15. Completing Tasks Slowly
“Sometimes, I can be slow at work because I overthink how to do things the right way. I’m wondering if I’m doing the best. I’m wondering if people at work like me or if they like the work I do. I overthink about almost everything. On top of it, I struggle with OCD, too.” — Fanyy F.
16. Jumping to Conclusions
“I jump to conclusions. I’ll think so much about what could go wrong and irrationally put ‘evidence’ with my line of thinking… I don’t realize I do it and I don’t mean to.” — Kara R.
17. Making Lists (Lots of Lists)
“Write to do lists in great detail, over and over again to make sure I have everything written down.” — Carolyn A.
“Lists. I have lists for everything! Post-Its on my fridge with the same information that is written on my wall calendar and desk calendar.” — Lauren D.
“Take notes and write everything down. I’m afraid I’ll forget something that I may need to know. I have notebooks and notes everywhere for everything.” — Andrea S.
“Lists. Lists. Lists.” — Melissa M.
If you’re an overthinker, what would you add?