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How To Stop Overthinking: Signs, Causes & Treatments


Reviewed by Dr. Drew Sutton, MD
how to stop overthinking
Overthinking can lead to destructive thought patterns that negatively impact your mental health. Photo: jcomp/Freepik

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Overthinking can be a common experience, but when negative thoughts and past mistakes dominate your thought patterns, it can lead to destructive thought patterns that negatively impact your mental health. Excessive and incessant worrying can be signs of anxiety disorders, depression, and other mental health conditions.

When left unchecked, it can become a vicious cycle that affects your well-being and quality of life. However, there are coping strategies and ways to stop overthinking with the help of mental health professionals or practicing self-compassion.

This article will identify the signs and causes of overthinking, discuss its negative effects on your mental health, and provide helpful strategies to stop overthinking and focus on the present moment.

How To Stop Overthinking

Here are some effective ways to stop overthinking:

  • Identify negative thought patterns
  • Practice self-compassion
  • Engage in activities that focus your attention
  • Limit worry time
  • Challenge negative thoughts
  • Seek support from a mental health professional
  • Practice mindfulness to stay in the present moment.

What Is Overthinking?

Overthinking is a thinking pattern characterized by repetitive thoughts or worries about a specific situation or event. It involves dwelling on the past, worrying about the future, and feeling stuck in negative thought patterns. Overthinking can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression if left unchecked and can have negative effects on an individual’s mental health and well-being.

Overthinking Signs

Overthinking Signs
Racing thoughts can make falling and staying asleep challenging, often resulting in insomnia. Photo: Lysenko Andrii/Shutterstock
  • Repetitive thinking: Get caught up in a cycle of thinking about the same thing over and over again.
  • Difficulty making decisions: Overthinking can lead to a lack of confidence in one’s ability to make decisions, causing one to hesitate or avoid making choices altogether.
  • Insomnia: When our minds are racing with thoughts, it can be difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, leading to insomnia.
  • Obsessing over a particular situation
  • Feeling stuck in your own head
  • Experiencing physical symptoms: headaches, muscle tension, and fatigue.
  • Constantly seeking reassurance from others to help calm anxieties and validate thoughts and feelings.
  • Feelings of depression or anxiety: Overthinking can lead to excessive worrying, which can cause feelings of depression or anxiety. These emotions can become overwhelming and affect a person’s overall mental health and well-being.
  • Negative Thoughts: Overthinkers tend to dwell on negative thoughts and worst-case scenarios, often assuming the worst will happen. This can lead to a vicious cycle of negative thinking and increase stress and anxiety levels.
  • Worrying About Past Mistakes: Overthinkers often ruminate on past mistakes, which can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and regret. This can prevent them from moving forward and lead to further negative thoughts and emotions.

Overall, overthinking can have negative effects on a person’s mental health, relationships, and daily life. It is important to identify these signs and stop overthinking, such as seeking help from a mental health professional or practicing self-compassion and positive coping strategies. These signs can be indicators that you are overthinking, and it may be beneficial to seek help from a mental health professional to develop coping strategies.

Effective Ways To Stop Overthinking

Stop Overthinking
Engaging in distracting activities can effectively stop overthinking. Photo: marekuliasz/Shutterstock

Look For A Distraction

One effective way to stop overthinking is to engage in an activity that takes your mind off the thoughts that are causing you to overthink. This could be anything from reading a book, watching a movie, listening to music, exercising, or engaging in a hobby. The key is to find something you enjoy, which can take your focus away from your thoughts.

Take A Long, Deep Breath

When you start to feel overwhelmed by your thoughts, take a moment to pause and take a few long, deep breaths. This can help you to relax and calm down, and it can also help to slow down your racing thoughts. As you breathe in, focus on filling your lungs with air; as you breathe out, focus on releasing any tension or anxiety you may be feeling. You can repeat this process a few times until you feel more calm and centered.

Identify And Challenge Negative Thoughts

Identify negative thought patterns and challenge them by questioning their validity and likelihood of happening. This can help shift your focus from overthinking to more realistic and positive thoughts.

Practice Mindfulness

Engage in mindfulness practices such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga to focus on the present moment and reduce repetitive thinking.

Set Aside Worry Time

Designate a specific time of day to worry and overthink, limiting it to a certain amount of time. This can help you gain control over your thoughts and prevent them from becoming all-consuming.

Engage In Physical Activity

Exercise releases endorphins that can help reduce stress and anxiety and distract you from overthinking.

Practice Self-Compassion

Be kind to yourself and practice self-compassion by acknowledging that everyone makes mistakes and that it’s okay to have negative thoughts and emotions.

Seek Professional Help

If overthinking is interfering with your daily life or causing significant distress, consider seeking the help of a mental health professional who can provide strategies and support for managing and reducing overthinking.

Why Am I Overthinking Everything?

Overthinking can be caused by a variety of factors, including anxiety, past experiences, fear of failure, and self-doubt. When these feelings become overwhelming, the brain can get stuck in a cycle of repetitive thoughts, leading to overthinking. Additionally, certain personality traits such as perfectionism, a need for control, or a tendency towards rumination can also contribute to overthinking. It is important to identify the root cause of overthinking in order to develop effective coping strategies and improve overall mental well-being. Seeking support from a mental health professional can also be helpful in addressing the underlying issues leading to overthinking.


In conclusion, overthinking can have negative effects on mental health and lead to anxiety and depression. Some signs of overthinking include feeling depressed or anxious, negative thoughts, and worrying about past mistakes. However, there are effective ways to stop overthinking, including looking for distractions, taking deep breaths, practicing mindfulness, and seeking help from a mental health professional if needed. By identifying the causes and implementing these strategies, individuals can improve their well-being and avoid the harmful effects of overthinking.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some common triggers for overthinking?

Common triggers for overthinking include stress, anxiety, negative life events, uncertainty, and fear of the unknown.

Can overthinking be a symptom of a mental health condition?

Yes, overthinking can be a symptom of various mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

How can I determine if my overthinking is harmful or just a normal part of processing?

If your overthinking is causing significant distress, interfering with your daily functioning, and leading to negative consequences, it may be harmful and warrant attention.

Is it possible to completely stop overthinking, or is it more about managing it effectively?

It may not be possible to stop overthinking completely, but it is possible to manage it effectively through various strategies such as mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy, and lifestyle changes.

What are some lifestyle changes that can help reduce overthinking?

Lifestyle changes that can help reduce overthinking include practicing relaxation techniques, engaging in physical exercise, getting enough sleep, and managing stress levels.

When should I consider seeking professional help for my overthinking?

You should consider seeking professional help for your overthinking if it interferes with your daily life, causes significant distress, or leads to negative consequences.

Can medication be helpful in managing overthinking?

Yes, medication can be helpful in managing overthinking, particularly if it is associated with an underlying mental health condition.

How can mindfulness and meditation be used to combat overthinking?

Mindfulness and meditation can combat overthinking by helping to increase awareness and acceptance of thoughts and emotions and developing the ability to focus on the present moment.

+ 6 Sources

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