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Tend to Overexplain? This May Be Why

People may fear not being believed, or getting in trouble.

Key points

  • Some peopls can't help but enage in long, detailed, explanations, with many details.
  • Many who overexplain do so for reasons such as neurodiversity.
  • Having experienced dysfunction and unhealthy communication in childhood is also a common reason.
Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay
Source: Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

Mya grew up in a home filled with chaos and domestic violence. She was often punished for small things, and carried with her a constant fear of being in trouble. When worried that she may be about to be punished, her brain began trying to think of ways to excuse or explain whatever minor transgression had taken place. Even as a young child, she had learned the defense mechanism of overexplaining in order to protect herself.

While this may have worked, even somewhat, in childhood, it caused issues in her adult relationships. She often overexplained things that were not necessary. This caused her partner to become annoyed with her at times, and even affected her employment when her boss became suspicious of her tendency to overexplain.

"What should I do?" she asked during a session. So I gave her the following support:

Often, people overexplain when they worry that they are not being heard, understood, or believed. I usually find that this behavior has a root in childhood trauma experiences, particularly in people who have a history of childhood emotional neglect or people who had to fear maltreatment or abuse from a perpetrator.

The act of overexplaining is often a defense mechanism and stress response that comes from that fear of needing to “explain” oneself out of trouble. In the past, explaining may have worked to diffuse the situation or prevent upsetting the perpetrator (in many cases, the parents or caregivers of a child).

Experiences of trauma in one's family of origin affect the development of healthy information and social processing. As a result, many who experienced childhood trauma will interpret neutral or even slightly stressful situations as being threatening. This heightened stress response makes it difficult to regulate their concentration and information processing, leading to behaviors that are used in an attempt to self-soothe to decrease these negative feelings. (Van der Kolk, 2015; Perry, 2009) One of these behaviors is overexplaining, which can be their way of trying to ensure that they do not have that feeling of not being believed or understood.

If I tend to overexplain, what can I do instead?

The most difficult thing for some people is to realize they are doing this. Sometimes it becomes so second nature that they might not even realize it. This is especially true for those who overexplain due to autism, ADHD, or other situations. When a loved one feels comfortable enough to gently tell you that you're doing it, this can help. Sometimes my partner will tell me something gentle, such as "You're doing that thing you do," and I immediately am able to recognize my behavior and do a quick symptom check. Am I anxious? Am I worried I am going to be not believed? What else might be going on? This helps me inventory my feelings at the moment to see if anything is going on in a way that does not feel shameful or embarrassing.

As you develop self-awareness of your tendency to engage in this behavior, you can practice being mindful about it. Just recognizing and acknowledging it in your head is a great step, perhaps saying something like “I am oversharing.” (Or, if you are recognizing it in hindsight, saying “I overshared” is fine). The key is to acknowledge without adding shame or judgment. Saying, “I am oversharing” is fine. But saying, “I am so silly, I am oversharing again, no wonder people think I am annoying…” is unproductive and negative.

Next, get curious about your reason for oversharing. When you are engaging in this behavior, what is going on? Do you feel like others aren’t listening? Do you feel like you are having to explain yourself so you do not get in trouble? Is there a fear or worry behind it? Perhaps some social awkwardness that causes you to overtalk? All of these reasons are not necessarily good or bad, and should not be assigned as such. Let yourself get curious about the feeling that is happening in your mind and body when you tend to overshare, simply as a form of exploration.

Then, work on increasing your comfort with this feeling. For example, if you find that you overshare due to not being believed, practice sitting with the feeling of not being believed. What comes up for you? It is worth focusing on addressing that inner feeling. Likewise, if you overtalk due to social anxiety, develop increased comfort with not talking to fill the silence. Allow yourself to develop an increased comfort and desensitization to these feelings, and some should decrease over time.

If you overexplain due to autism, ADHD, sensory processing difficulties, etc., some of these tips may still help, along with developing increased comfort with who you are. I often tell people, “I tend to overexplain due to the way my neurodivergence manifests. If it gets too much, feel free to tell me that you understand!” The key is finding what you feel most comfortable with and what works best for you.

How can I support a loved one who often overexplains? I don't want to make them feel bad, but I want to help them realize they do not need to go into so much detail.

The amount and type of support will depend on the relationship. If it is someone you are close to, you may be more comfortable telling them than someone whom you do not know well, such as a coworker or classmate. You can start by saying things to them such as, “I completely understand what you’re saying," “I believe you,” or something else that conveys that you understand and follow them. Feeling understood will often decrease their need to overshare and overexplain.


Perry, B. D., & Winfrey, O. (2021). What happened to you?: conversations on trauma, resilience, and healing. Flatiron Books.

Van der Kolk, B. A. (2015). The body keeps the score: brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. New York, New York, Penguin Books

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