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Overthinking: Can you fix it?

Stressed looking woman with anxious thoughts about her problems

“Overthinking,” is how many clients describe what is happening inside their heads. Rumination is what the psychologists call it. Everyone does it to some degree, but when it begins to impair your life, you might look for help.

What is Overthinking?

Here are some common examples

  • Replaying painful events over in your mind

  • Imagining worst-case scenarios

  • Recalling mistakes you made

  • Blaming yourself

  • Comparing yourself to others

  • Imagining future conversations with people

The worst part is how these negative thoughts seem to play automatically. At any time of day or night they appear to torment you and distract you from resting, enjoying relationships or being productive in work.

Why does overthinking happen?

There is a sensible reason that your mind will produce negative thoughts. You have a built-in safety warning system. Job #1 for your mind is to prevent disaster that would end or ruin your life. If you step onto a busy street or walk up to the edge of a cliff, your attention will instantly focus on what could harm you. Your mind will just as quickly warn you about dangers to your reputation, social status, career or love life.

Sometimes this safety warning system gets stuck on high like a fire alarm that goes off by itself. Stress or trauma often does that. When we are overwhelmed by more than we can handle, our minds get stuck in negative thinking without solutions.

How does counselling help?

I, and most therapists will help you with overthinking in specific ways.

  • Get specific about the negative thoughts so you can challenge them and name the alternatives.

  • Practice halting the cascade of negative thoughts

  • Practice accepting negative thoughts as normal events that come and go

  • Discover how past events in childhood or trauma are still affecting today's thinking

  • Learn to switch from chaotic negative thinking into problem-solving

  • Learn new communication skills

  • Identify the most important values and choices for your future

Overthinking usually happens when your mind is overwhelmed by stress or painful events. Sometimes it can be reset just by learning new skills and a few life changes. Sometimes it is much more serious and needs deep personal work or medical psychiatric intervention.

I’m glad to have a conversation with you to see if counselling with me is a good fit for you.

Dixon Zalit is a counsellor in Vernon BC, offering counselling for stress and anxiety, relationships, and other self-management topics.



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