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Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you put a stop to your overanalyzing. Simply click here to connect with one via BetterHelp.com.
I can’t think of a single person who hasn’t lain awake at night, going over an exchange they had earlier and unpacking details for hidden meanings and messages.
That’s a normal thing to happen every so often, especially if you’re mulling over a date or job interview.
Problems arise, however, when this hyper-analysis happens on a frequent basis.
It can be exhausting when you’re in a constant state of hypervigilance and analysis. This behavior increases anxiety and panic, and it can erode relationships due to accusations and outbursts based on feelings rather than facts.
Read on to find out more about what overanalyzing looks like, how you can be aware of it when it’s happening, and how to stop doing it.
What Does It Mean To Overanalyze?
If I analyze the cup of coffee that’s currently getting cold beside me, I’ll take note of the cup and the contents within. It’s a stoneware ceramic piece, and my analysis tells me that based on its discoloration, materials, and overall design, it was likely handmade some time in the 1970s. I’m not enough of a coffee connoisseur to be able to tell you where these tasty beans were grown, but the strong scent tells me that they were ground recently.
That’s a healthy amount of analysis. It gives me enough information to work with, and I probably won’t give this cup another thought until I need to refill it with more tasty, caffeinated bean juice.
In contrast, overanalysis would mean picking apart every detail of this cup, the coffee, and the motivations behind why I’m drinking from it.
My partner made the coffee this morning, but did she make me breakfast because she cares about me? Or is she going to use this gesture to guilt trip me into doing a task for her later?
Furthermore, why did she use this cup for me in particular?
It’s neither the best cup in the house, nor the worst, so what does that say about how she feels about me? And did she use the “good” coffee? Or the cheap crap we keep at the back of the pantry for emergencies? I can’t tell. If she used the cheap stuff, is she hoarding the good stuff for herself? Or saving it for someone else?
Come to think of it, I don’t remember her smiling or saying that she loved me when she gave me the cup. Did I do something to upset her? Is she upset enough to have put something weird in my drink?! She’s a herbalist, so who knows what plants she has access to…
I bet you’re exhausted just reading that, so imagine how flattening it can be if that’s one’s thought process on a constant basis.
Every detail is scrutinized as though under a microscope, looking for tiny details that could warn of potential hurt or mistreatment. The reality is completely innocuous 99.9% of the time, but that “what if?!” anxiety undertow doesn’t let up easily once we’re caught in it.
Do you find yourself wondering about people’s motivations when and if they do something nice for you? For instance, if they pay you a compliment, do you take it at face value? Or do you wonder if they’re making fun of you or buttering you up for something? Then chances are you’re an overanalyzer.
That’s okay. The fact that you’re looking up how to stop doing it is a huge step, so congratulations on that level of self-awareness! Now let’s figure out how to make it stop.
Common Signs Of Overanalysis.
One strong sign is a person who focuses on assumptions and hypotheticals rather than facts. The precursor to many of their thoughts and reactions are related to “what if” scenarios. They worry about countless potential outcomes to the situations they’re envisioning.
Physical signs of overanalysis will depend a great deal on the individual, but there are some things that many overanalyzers may share: anxiety and panic attacks are common, as are headaches, insomnia, and digestive issues.
If you’re wondering how you can spot when you’re in the throes of overanalysis (so you can curb that behavior as soon as you become aware of it), look out for the following signs and gestures:
- Unfocused eyes/gazing out into the distance
- Anxious “fidgeting” such as hand-wringing, finger rubbing, rocking
Furthermore, there are other behaviors that are often associated with overanalysis. People who are prone to overanalyzing things are often people-pleasers, possibly due to abuse or mistreatment in childhood. As such, they worry about any personal missteps that could possibly set someone off.
What Causes A Person To Overanalyze?
Quite often, this type of overanalyzing is a form of self-protection after past difficult experiences. It can be a form of hypervigilance, in which one feels like they need to deep-dive into other people’s words, actions, and even movements in order to anticipate potential dangers.
Many who have been through harrowing circumstances will be on high alert for any potential threat. As such, they might overanalyze everyone else’s behaviors to determine whether more difficulty is coming, and whether they need to take action accordingly.
This is rather like sailors constantly scanning their surroundings for signs of what’s to come (or what’s already happening). Seabirds moving in a certain pattern will indicate a shoal of fish beneath the surface, and certain cloud formations can warn of an imminent rainstorm. People who have a lot of experience traversing the oceans know that if they lower their guard and stop their constant vigilance, disaster may strike.
The same can happen with people who either grew up with abuse or lived in places where their wellbeing was threatened on the regular. A certain turn of phrase or movement might be a warning that they’re in danger.
Alternatively, people who have been screwed over by others (lied to, stolen from, cheated on, etc.) might scrutinize every interaction they have, or various items around the house, to check for signs that they might get hurt again.
Mental health concerns.
Conditions such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be huge contributing factors to overanalysis. While anxiety can be caused by external factors, there’s often genetic predisposition to it, just like OCD.
As mentioned earlier, if you experienced trauma (like war) or grew up in an environment where you had to be on high alert all the time, it’s perfectly understandable for you to scrutinize things in order to protect yourself. In cases like these, it’s important to try to stay as grounded and present as possible, and learn to recognize that the people and situations you’re dealing with aren’t the ones that hurt you in the past.
If you’re really struggling with past difficulties, consider working with a therapist who specializes in PTSD, C-PTSD, and anxiety disorders. Not only can it be helpful to talk to a neutral party about everything you’ve been through, they’ll also be able to develop individualized therapy options that can help you heal.
Maybe there’s even a personal mantra or physical meditation that you can use to refocus and return to center when you recognize that you’re spinning and overanalyzing.
9 Ways To Stop Overanalyzing Everything In Your Life
It is a good idea to seek professional help from one of the therapists at BetterHelp.com as professional therapy can be highly effective in helping you to bring your overanalytical tendencies under control.
1. Lean into the discomfort instead of running away from it.
What we resist persists. As such, instead of just trying to clamp down on what you’re thinking or feeling about a situation, lean into it instead.
Grab a notebook and pen and write down everything you (over) analyze and worry about regarding this situation. Leave plenty of room for each worry, because you have more to write.
For each worry, write down what the worst possible outcome would be. Then, determine what your best solution would be for each of those outcomes. An entry in this regard could look something like this:
Situation: I texted my partner and they haven’t gotten back to me for hours. I’m afraid they’re mad at me for something and that they might break up with me. This is making me feel really anxious.
Potential outcome: If we break up, I’ll be devastated because I really love them, and then we won’t be able to live together anymore, and we might have to divide up the pets.
Alternatively, I’ll find out that it was really nothing for me to worry about, and we might have a huge fight over nothing and I’ll be an emotional mess for days.
Solutions: Rather than allowing my fears to cause an emotional reaction, I can wait for them to get back to me and find out what’s really going on. Then, once I know the details, I can work with them accordingly.
If they get upset with me for worrying “for no reason,” I can take a time-out and go for a walk to process what I’m feeling, and then explain things from my perspective so they understand where I was coming from.
The absolute worst thing that can happen is that we break up. If this happens, I can go and stay with my friend until the worst of my emotional storm is over. I have people in my life I can turn to for support, and they can help me move if I need to.
I even have a place to stay if the worst comes to pass. And I know I can take my favorite pet with me if need be, because my partner prefers the other one. The breakup would hurt me for a long time, but I know I’d be okay eventually.
This simple three-part process will really help you to stop overanalyzing everything because as soon as we have a solution for a potential problem or worry, the worst of the emotional upheaval subsides.
2. Turn your attention elsewhere.
If leaning into the problem doesn’t work for you, or if you’ve already done that and you’re still being plagued by swirling emotions, then try to distract yourself.
Rather than immersing yourself in something you’re familiar with (e.g., something already in your comfort zone) challenge yourself by throwing yourself into the deep end with something that’s A) new; B) challenging; and C) requires physical movement, not just mental immersion.
By doing this, your mind needs to be fully focused on learning and adapting to these new skills. If you’re just delving into new written or auditory subject matter, your mind can wander easily. But this is not the case if you’re doing something like a carpentry project, baking, making chainmail, or crafting resin jewelry.
If you don’t focus on what you’re doing, your baking measurements might be off and things won’t set or rise properly. Or, in the case of carpentry, you might lose an arm.
Before you know it, you’ll have spent several hours doing something other than being tortured by your own thought storm. And best of all, you’ll have made progress on whatever it is you’ve immersed yourself in! If it’s cooking or baking, you’ll even have a tasty treat to enjoy too.
3. Work it out physically.
I tend to dive into physical activity when I’m feeling frustrated, as I work off a lot of excess energy through movement. That approach may work for others, but may be challenging for those who have limited physical mobility or strength.
Since emotions build up in the body, it’s important to learn how to release them in a way that works best for you. As mentioned, physical activity is a great way to release them, but so are things like saunas or deep-tissue massages.
The latter may be especially helpful for people who are disabled or have conditions that limit their mobility. As the muscle tension is worked out of your body, you’ll get the same “ahhh!” release that a long run or weight-training session might give someone else.
If neither is an option, then you can use your mind to release these from your body as well. Try a guided meditation that moves your focus through every part of your body, releasing tension all the way from your fingertips and toes to the crown of your head.
Put your consciousness into every muscle in your body, visualizing each part relaxing and opening up. You can even envision your tension as a color and “see” it rising up and away from you like steam or smoke.
Another practice that’s great if you have the ability to take part in it is physical meditation. This can include prayer beads or Chinese meditation balls, but it can also be done with stones, tennis balls, or squishy items that you love to scrunch around in your hands.
While using a tool of your choice, focus on the repetitive motion and concentrate on moving it around and how it feels as you do so. Use as many senses as possible while you’re doing this.
What does the texture feel like against your skin? Does it make any sound as you’re moving it? What about scent? Sandalwood or cedar beads are wonderful to work with as the heat of your hands will release the scent they hold. Additionally, wooden beads can also be infused with essential oils that you find calming, so you get the benefits of aromatherapy as you’re meditating.
Try scents such as lavender, eucalyptus, clary sage, vetiver, tangerine, or the sandalwood or cedar mentioned above. These fragrances can help to soothe agitated spirits and calm the mind.
4. Stop yourself from searching for “hidden meanings.”
Or, in simpler terms, learn to take things at face value and work with the facts that are in front of you. This is a great way to stop analyzing every little detail.
For instance, are you the type of person who re-reads texts a thousand times, trying to dissect them for hidden meanings? Then when you find yourself doing this again, put the phone down. Stop trying to analyze why the person who messaged you chose that word instead of this one, or why they did or didn’t add an emoji in their communication. Take what they said at face value rather than thinking that there are hidden meanings or messages.
Know that if and when there’s a problem, it’ll surface when the time is right.
If your boss told you that you did a good job on a project, accept the compliment with grace, rather than beating yourself up over the fact that they didn’t tell you that you did a “great” job. You’ve been seen and acknowledged, now move on.
Similarly, if someone gives you a gift, try to see it for what it is rather than what you think it might be. If my partner gets me a new set of weights, I know it’s because she’s aware of how much I love weight training as a personal pursuit, so she’s supporting my interests and goals—not that she thinks I’m weak and should work out more. Just like if I get her bubble bath, it’s because I know she loves it; I’m not questioning her personal hygiene.
5. Create closure and solutions on your own terms.
One of the main reasons why people fixate on things is because we crave closure. It’s the same reason why we often read books we hate through to the end or finish watching a TV series that we absolutely despise. We just need things to come to an end so we aren’t left with any loose strings.
When we overanalyze things, we’re searching for those strings that may still be sticking up here and there so we can tidy them up into their rightful place.
The thing is, there will always be a few more loose tendrils here and there. As such, one of the greatest things we can do is accept that we might not be able to catch them all, and move on.
If you choose to bring closure to a topic, then you’re more likely to stop “chewing the cud” and ruminating on it endlessly. This is more difficult to do if the subject is in another’s hands, so to speak, as you don’t have any control over their actions. You can’t “make” them give you closure: you’ll need to do it yourself.
Stop thinking about the same things over and over. Shift your focus to a different topic or pursuit, just like you would end a conversation or relationship that’s no longer serving you.
If you find yourself constantly overanalyzing for the sake of self-protection, then the best thing you can do is leave that situation. It’s not doing good things for you in any way, so why stay? Remaining there will only damage your mental and physical health, so choose to jump the groove and change the tune.
On a similar note…
6. Remember that you control your thoughts, not the other way around.
Many people say that they can’t stop certain thoughts from spinning around in their minds over and over again, but deep down, that’s a personal choice. Sure, we all deal with intrusive thoughts now and then, but ultimately it’s us who are in control of them. Even if they come unbidden and disrupt whatever we’ve been doing, we can choose how we respond to them, and how they affect us as a whole.
If you find yourself caught in a hyperanalysis spiral after a nasty or traumatic experience, express to yourself mentally—or even verbally—that you are reviewing the situation in order to learn and grow from it, but that you are not allowing it into your spirit.
Then confront the memory, let it wash over and through you, but choose what you hold onto. Basically, keep the lessons you learned from the experience, and let go of whatever no longer serves you.
As an example, let’s say you had an awful experience with a romantic partner; one that hurt you deeply and left you feeling betrayed. Their behavior is entirely about who they are, and has nothing to do with you. Feel the hurt, let it go, but file away helpful lessons you took away from it. Did you gain new skills while you two were together? Or maybe you learned something about your own resilience by going through this?
Those worthwhile lessons are the ones worth keeping, rather than letting that jackass live rent-free in your head indefinitely.
If one particular scenario keeps rearing its ugly head, then try to determine why it keeps coming up. Are you trying to figure out what you did “wrong” in this situation in order to earn such mistreatment? Maybe your subconscious is going back over every detail so you’re able to better protect yourself if a similar circumstance arises in the future.
If that’s the case, grab that trusty notebook of yours and write down the lessons you feel that you’ve learned. By doing so, you can exorcise the lessons from your mind and onto paper for permanent reference. Then you can let the rest of it go and never think about that person ever again, because they aren’t worth another moment of your time.
Furthermore, reprogram your response to it. If and when that thought pops up, shake it off, and use it as a reminder to drink some water. This serves a dual purpose: it keeps the thoughts from affecting you, and you’ll be significantly more well-hydrated.
7. Never assume; always ask.
One of the main reasons why people spiral into overanalysis and subsequent associated emotional upheaval is because they assume a great deal and then react to their own assumptions. They don’t just “read between the lines”: they turn every letter upside down and pick apart the spaces between sentences to determine whether anything’s lurking in there.
Instead of cliff-diving into what everything could potentially mean, ask for clarification in a clear and unemotional way. Don’t be aggressive or confrontational here, even if you’re feeling vulnerable or unstable. That’ll just drum up an uncomfortable situation and blow up even the smallest issue into a falling out, which you don’t need.
Let’s take the boss’s feedback example used earlier. If you were told you did a “good job” but didn’t get an exclamation mark, smiley emoji, or invitation out to celebrate your awesomeness, you might be worried that what you did was sub-par.
Rather than spinning out about it, email your boss and ask them if it would be possible to book some of their time to go over the project. If they ask you why, say that you enjoyed working on it but would love to get their guidance on whether there’s room for you to improve on future assignments.
Not only will they appreciate your initiative, they’ll be able to clarify to you how they felt about your performance, and whether you could do more (or less) in the future. Alternatively, you might simply get a response of “You did amazingly and I wouldn’t change a thing,” at which point you can chill out and stop fretting completely.
8. Determine additional contributing factors.
Most people don’t realize that all aspects of mental, emotional, and physical health are connected. In fact, many who suffer from OCD have been shown to have very low B12 and vitamin D levels. In fact, seriously low B12 levels can also cause psychiatric manifestations such as mania (or hypomania), hallucinations, delirium, and dementia.
If you follow a restrictive diet like veganism, or have gut absorption problems due to diseases such as Crohn’s, celiac, or IBS, consider asking your healthcare provider if they can run some bloodwork for you. It’s possible that the overanalysis and associated anxiety may be lessened via dietary changes or supplementation.
9. Stay present.
This cannot be emphasized enough. Nearly every case of overanalyzing revolves around things that could possibly happen in the future. This could pertain to job loss, health issues, relationship troubles, or countless other life aspects that we all fret over for the sake of our own stability.
The thing is, none of that is happening now.
What’s going on around you at the moment? Is the sun shining? Or is rain falling on leaves outside your window? Is agonizing over a text message worth missing valuable time spent with your lover that you’ll never get back again? Why are you choosing to spend precious moments picking something apart rather than using that time in a constructive or beautiful way?
If, 50 years from now, you look back on what’s happening in your life right now, what do you think you’d wish for more? That you’d spent more time with people you care about, doing things you love? Or that you had stared at your phone for an additional three hours, determining the motivations behind someone’s book recommendation?
Ultimately, try not to beat yourself up about overanalyzing. After all, it’s better to be a person who overthinks things on occasion than someone who hasn’t much going on upstairs. In fact, this can be immensely beneficial in the right circumstances, just like any other mental or emotional process.
Furthermore, it’s only by analysis (and the learning that goes along with it) that we can improve and adapt our life strategies for the best possible outcome.
The key is to use this ability when the situation calls for it and then be able to put that ability back into your tool chest when you don’t need it. For example, hypervigilance is great if you’re sailing or hunting, but it isn’t ideal when you’re being intimate or trying to sleep.
Stay present, focus on what’s important, and find a good therapist if you need one. You can and will get past this, and thrive as a result.
Still not sure how to stop overanalyzing and overthinking everything? Talking to someone can really help you to handle whatever life throws at you. It’s a great way to get your thoughts and your worries out of your head so you can work through them.
Speak to a therapist rather than a friend or family member. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can help you to get a handle on your thought processes with practical and tailored advice.
BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.
You may also like:
- 20 Quick Ways To Get Your Mind Off Something
- 6 Affirmations To Repeat When You’re Overthinking
- 8 Effective Ways To Stop Negative Thoughts From Taking Root In Your Head
- Making Up Scenarios In Your Head: Causes, Examples, How To Stop
- How To Stop Catastrophizing About Events In Your Life