The term “overthinker” is a relatively new word in our linguistic usage. Generally, it is used to describe people who think about even the smallest nuances in the language, attitude, or emotions of their counterpart (and sometimes themselves) and want to make deeper sense of these things.
What does Overthinker mean? Meaning, definition, explanation
Meanwhile, according to a study by the University of Michigan, just over 70% of all adults between the ages of 25 and 35 are overthinkers. They claim to spend long and extensive periods of time thinking about small and large things in their everyday lives and the environment. Of the study participants, more women than men were affected by this phenomenon.
At first glance, overthinking doesn’t seem to be a problem at all. Thinking long and hard about something is actually a good thing. After all, with more time, more solutions come to mind, and you can look at things from different angles. But at the latest, when this turns into constant brooding and you only concentrate on the possible negative effects, it gets into negative channels.
Overthinkers become slaves to their thoughts, so to speak, and are caught in a negative loop. A small, unconscious action of their interlocutor can lead to strained thinking whether this or that behavior has a meaning and which could be that. Was the erratic hand movement actually meant in a derogatory way? Is the other person angry with me? Is he looking down on me? Or was the gesture a request to me, which I did not understand? Was the other person thus disappointed? The negative thoughts pile up into a mountain that can eventually stifle positive influences.
The good news: an emotional world that has developed in this way can be effectively reduced or even completely eliminated by becoming aware of one’s thought routines. They cannot be switched off quickly and at the push of a button. If you try to do so with all your might, the opposite is usually the case. Remember the old example, “Don’t think about blue elephants for a day!” By forcing yourself to avoid, the brain classifies musings as threats all the more. It begins to warn them of this “danger” by repeatedly alerting you to it. As a result, there is often insomnia at night and nervous restlessness during the day. Most people can quickly come to terms with thoughts, overthinkers often need support from their environment or sometimes even medical help.
How can you recognize an overthinker?
As mentioned earlier, people with overthinking syndrome are filled with negative intrusive thoughts. They often appear depressed and view possible consequences of doing something negatively, even if the likelihood of a negative outcome is low. “But what if…” is a common response when you are dealing with a sufferer. Of course, not everyone who thinks something negative is immediately an overthinker, but the latter always think of something negative about present things and actions. They live in constant fear that something undesirable will happen. They constantly analyze the situation they are in or may get into, and they often come back to issues that have actually been resolved. Because their thoughts often rob them of needed rest, affected people often appear dull, listless and tired. Projects they are working on are completed with time lapse, as they are afraid of negative reactions from those around them. They often develop a negative perfectionism to deliver a work or a creation as good as possible. But even the best result is not good enough not to trigger criticism.
Overthinking can be categorized as follows:
- Thoughts about the past (What could have been done better.)
- Thoughts about the future (What could happen badly.)
- Thoughts about the problems of others (If only he would do x, then his situation would change.)
- Thoughts about the words of others (Especially about how something said might have been meant.)
- Thoughts about the best decision (If I wait until the day after tomorrow to buy, I’ll get a better price).
- Thoughts about the course of the world (Why is the world like it is?)
What can be done about overhinking?
Do you think you have identified an overthinker in your environment? First of all, listen to him or her carefully and find out which topic is bothering him or her the most at the moment. Taking the other person seriously is important here. Platitudes such as “It’s not that dramatic” or “But you can also get in line” tend to be counterproductive. Weigh each argument and try to “cushion” the negative trains of thought with positive ones or set up positive counterpoints. Back them up calmly and factually, without making pressing demands. Distraction from the thoughts is also helpful. Even a walk in the fresh air or a chat in a café can help your acquaintance to be more calm. Nevertheless, you should respond to him argumentatively. Give examples, but also clearly draw a line. Explain your opinion once or twice and allow for follow-up questions. But you should stop repeated inquiries and “Yes, but…”. Then steer the conversation to another topic.
What can I do if I am affected myself?
Awareness is also the first step to improvement here. If you find that they are thinking too much and often about a topic and its possible negative effects, that is already a first step.
Try to keep a record of these thoughts. See how much time you spend on them.
The best antidote is to find facts for positive impacts and focus on them. Likewise, bringing structure to your thought processes is hugely important. Concentration exercises help you focus on important things and priorities. Write down what thoughts you have already thought about and what results you have come to. This will help avoid repetition.
Involve a close friend or acquaintance and tell them what is bothering you. Seeing things from a different perspective usually has a positive effect. Another tool is distraction. Take yourself out of the negative thought spiral. Interrupt it with an activity that requires your attention and brings joy. Sports activities have an optimal effect here, as do activities that require high concentration. Solving a puzzle, doing crossword puzzles, building models or even playing a computer game are just a few examples. If none of this helps, you should seek professional psychological help. Talk to your health insurance company about the problem, usually their staff will quickly know where you can go for advice. Trained psychologists are able to grasp your problems and work out solutions with you.
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