The Psychology Behind Chronic Overthinking (and How to Stop It)

Updated 03/23/17

Overthinkers are all too familiar with what researchers are now calling the "worry spiral," or the tendency to ruminate on issues beyond one's control. Residual symptoms include forgetting what the initial worry was in the first place and overthinking something that hasn't even happened yet. Fortunately, new research published in Biological Perspective has uncovered the reasons behind chronic worrying—and how to stop it before it starts.

In short, pathological overthinkers simply have better follow-through in regard to their worries. In other words, they "tend to have a kind of perfectionist approach" and feel compelled to "work through every eventuality and solving every problem," explains Christian Jarrett of Research Digest. They want to take action to assuage their worries, even if they're lying in bed at 2 in the morning, lost in thought.

"The key to breaking out of the spiral, then, is surprisingly simple: Make a concerted effort to move on once [the worry] no longer feels useful," writes New York Magazine's The Science of Us. Think of it this way: Rather than viewing your worry as a means to an end, view it as something to be let go of once you've had enough of it. "It's hard to stop yourself from worrying entirely, but it can feel like less of a burden if you think of it as a pit stop on the way to enjoying the rest of your day," the researchers conclude.

For more, read up on the three science-backed ways to stop overthinking everything in life.

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