Carefully considering your actions is an important part of making good choices, but we've all been in those situations where we ended up dwelling on something longer than we should. It's helpful to watch out for signs that you overthink things too much, as all that ruminating could end up holding you back. Some thought is necessary, but other times you might find yourself reading too much into a situation that unnecessarily or spending too long making a decision when it's better off to just go with your instinct.
"Overthinking holds us back when 'paralysis by analysis' sets in," says Dr. Sanam Hafeez, PsyD over email. "This causes people to remain stuck at jobs, in unfulfilling relationships, and in negative loops of sabotaging self-talk. Overthinking is disconnection from your inner voice. Your inner voice tells you to take that dream job 1,000 miles away, but your fear leads to overthinking all the reasons why it won't work out."
It's still important to consider your options and make wise decisions, but you don't want your thoughts to end up hurting you. If you feel like you're spending too much time thinking about every aspect of your life, watch out for these 10 signs you're overthinking things too much that it's actually hurting you.
1You Have Problems Making Decisions
If you have a hard time making decisions, whether it's deciding what to eat at a restaurant or what to do for your career, you're likely overthinking things. "Instead, pick something, and course correct as needed," says psychologist Dr. Helen Odessky over email.
2You Ignore Your Instincts
"If you tend to ignore your gut instincts and make long pros and cons lists. it's likely you're overthinking it," says Odessky. "Take a look at the pros and cons, but let your gut chime in." Your intuition is a surprisingly accurate tool: Research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that when participants of the study were forced to choose between two options based on instinct alone, they made the right call up to 90 percent of the time.
3You Constantly Ruminate
A clear sign you are overthinking is that you spend a lot of time ruminating (going over and over the same thing in your head) about things that have happened in the past. "You pick over situations and conversations in your brain that could have happened last night or perhaps several years ago, and yet you are still thinking about it," says psychologist Dr. Sarah Allen over email. "It is exhausting. You are wasting your emotional energy thinking about it and it can leave you feeling physically and emotionally drained."
4You Avoid Making Choices
"When it seems more comfortable to avoid conversations with others or actually finding answers instead of replaying things in your head, this reinforces overthinking and can lead to you talking yourself out of something," says psychologist Marni Amsellem, Ph.D. over email. Instead of avoiding choices, you need to face your conflict head on.
5You Miss Deadlines
You're likely overthinking decisions if the deadline you've given yourself has come and gone, many times. "You keep deferring, even after giving yourself a deadline," says Odessky.
6You Repeat The Same Conversations To Your Friends
When you overthink something, you often run it by with your friends, and if they start to get annoyed, it might be too much. "Your friends are getting tired of being asked about the same situation over and over," says Odessky. "Or maybe you're embarrassed to bring it up because they have heard it a million times before."
7You Need Every Piece Of Information To Make Up Your Mind
Some information is necessary when it comes to making a decision, but you have to draw the line somewhere. "Overthinking something too much means you won't be satisfied until you've read everything on the topic and asked everyone's advice before making up your mind," says Odessky.
8You're Not Emotionally Present Around Others
Overthinking things can lead to you spending a lot of time in your head, which means you're not completely emotionally present when you are around others. "If you are focusing on your thoughts rather than the person in front of you, it can make them feel that you are not interested in them or what they are saying to you, which of course can be detrimental to the relationship," says Allen. Try to ground yourself by really focusing on where you are in the moment.
9You Don't Sleep Well
"Another sign is that you are sleep deprived because your ruminations are stopping you falling asleep or are waking you up in the middle of the night," says Allen. "You can overcome this by setting aside a time each evening that you sit down and write out the things you are thinking about. This can clear your head for when you are trying to sleep."
10You Let Your Anxiety Hold You Back
"Your overthinking is holding you back when anxiety prevents you from doing things or moving forward in your life," says Allen. "Usually this involves thoughts about “What if?" and then thoughts about all the things that could possibly go wrong."