Disadvantages of Overthinking


Some people complain that “I just can’t seem to think” but a larger number, perhaps, find themselves trapped because they just can’t stop thinking! They find themselves thinking all the time – while watching TV, while working, eating and even in sleep! Psychology has a name for it. Rumination.

Rumination is the process of pondering or thinking over something repetitively. It’s pretty much like a cow chewing over her food incessantly. Where rumination may help the cow’s health, it isn’t really helpful for our mental health.

Why do we start?

Initially it often starts off as thinking a problem through to achieve better understanding and hopefully a solution. Soon, it becomes a habit and many find themselves unable to stop at will.

Why we need to stop?

Overthinking and ruminating endlessly often leads to:

  1. Mental exhaustion
  2. Difficulties with concentration
  3. Irritability
  4. Anxiety
  5. No Solution.

The technique of thinking something through, when overdone, defeats its purpose. So, when someone asks you to ‘sleep over it’, it means take a break and think with a fresh mind, no hasty decisions. Not analyze and overanalyze all night and arrive the next day with bloodshot eyes and a dead brain!

Why rumination doesn’t work ? 

1. Point of focus:

More often than not, we focus on the problem instead of the solution. We analyze the problem from every angle possible, over and over again till there’s nothing more left to it. What we focus on amplifies – so perhaps focusing as much on the problem is not a very smart idea.

2. The Loop:

Usually, we think and problem solve in a particular pattern. While ruminating, we often get stuck in a loop of attempting the same solutions or thinking about the problem in the same way repetitively. You cannot reach a different destination if you keep walking the same road. You already know where this one leads. So if that’s not where you want to end up, you must try a different route.

3. State dependent thinking:

When you are thinking in a frustrated, irritated and perhaps hopeless and depressed mood – as is often created by rumination – are you likely to come up with a positive optimistic well thought out solution?

In the next post we will address how to work with rumination.

Post contributed by: Mahima Gupta (Psychologist, Inner Space, 2010-2012)


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