Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

3 Ways Overthinking Hurts More Than It Helps

Ruminating isn't the same as problem-solving.

Jasminko Ibrakovic/Shutterstock
Source: Jasminko Ibrakovic/Shutterstock

Whether you beat yourself up for a mistake you made last week, or you fret about how you're going to succeed tomorrow, overthinking everything can be debilitating. Your inability to get out of your head will leave you in a constant state of anguish.

Of course, everyone overthinks a situation occasionally. But if you're a true overthinker, you'll struggle to quiet the constant barrage of thoughts. Overthinking is more than just a nuisance—studies show thinking too much can take a serious toll on your well-being.

Here are the three dangers of being an overthinker:

1. It increases your chances of mental illness.

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology reports that dwelling on your shortcomings, mistakes, and problems increases your risk of mental health problems.

And rumination can set you up for a vicious cycle that is hard to break: Ruminating wreaks havoc on your mental health, and as your mental health declines, your tendency to ruminate increases.

2. It interferes with problem-solving.

Research shows that overthinkers believe they're helping themselves by rehashing their problems in their heads. But studies also show that analysis paralysis is real.

Overanalyzing actually interferes with problem-solving. It will cause you to dwell on a problem rather than seek solutions.

Even simple decisions, like choosing what to wear to an interview or deciding where to go on vacation, can feel like life-or-death when you're an overthinker. And ironically, all that thinking won't help you make a better choice.

3. It disturbs your sleep.

If you're an overthinker, you likely already know that you can't sleep when your mind won't shut off. Studies confirm this, finding that rumination and worry lead to fewer hours of sleep because you'll be more likely to toss and turn for hours before you drift off.

But sleeping later may not help, because overthinking also impairs the quality of your sleep. You'll be less likely to fall into a deep slumber after you've been thinking about the same thing over and over again.

How to Stop Overthinking

Whether you've put off buying a house for 10 years because you can't find the "perfect" one, or you struggle to be productive because each choice you need to make takes up too much of your time, overthinking can drag you down.

But the good news is, you don't have to be an overthinker forever. You can take steps to stop. Using new strategies and developing new skills can help you make good choices in a timely manner with less distress.

Learn more in 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do.

More from Psychology Today

More from Amy Morin

More from Psychology Today