Did my voice sound weird when I said that even though I rehearsed it? What if they weren’t joking and actually hate me? What if this scenario or argument happens? Every one of us has stayed up late to think about situations that could’ve gone differently throughout the day or embarrassing moments from years prior. It’s normal behavior, but when does it become too much? If left unchecked, you might end up spiraling in a negative thought cycle for much longer than healthy. This spiral can be very harmful to your mental, physical, and emotional health. Want to learn some unsafe effects overthinking can have on you? In this article, I will be discussing 7 dangerous effects of overthinking that you can identify in your life!
1.It may shorten your lifespan.
Harvard Medical school conducted a study on 60-70-year old’s brains vs 100+-year-old’s and found that those who died at a younger age had significantly lower levels of a protein that quiets brain activity. Extra thinking causes excess brain activity, which depletes the protein. We’re not saying that by overthinking you’ll spontaneously die at age 30 but overexerting the brain can have unintended effects that you might not have known about until now.
2.You get less and worse quality sleep.
Sometimes, late at night, you can’t help but worry about upcoming events or overanalyze aspects of your life. Anxious thoughts take your body out of its resting state, making you more alert and awake. This leads to tossing and turning while trying to sleep only to get poor quality sleep. And, if you don’t sleep well, you have less energy causing a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation and exhaustion.
3.It affects your body’s chemical balance.
According to Ph.D neuropsychologist Rick Hansen, constantly focusing and building on hypothetical negative thoughts makes your brain less able to differentiate between hypothetical stress and stress that needs to be acted upon. This chemical imbalance can damage your brain’s structures that regulate emotions, memory, and feelings. Brain damage does sound scary, but don’t panic overthinking a little isn’t causing your brain to be irreparably damaged, but everything you do and think does affect your body.
4.You’re more prone to developing mental illnesses.
A study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology in 2013 found that overthinking your faults, mistakes, and problems increases your risk of developing mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Over analyzing harms your mental health, which then leads to more overthinking fueling another vicious cycle.
5.Your appetite might fluctuate.
You may not feel like eating at all, or, more commonly, you might eat more as a coping mechanism. Stress or worry eating comfort foods could help soothe or distract you from overthinking, but it’s ultimately not a healthy way to deal with overthinking. Often eating comfort foods in large quantities proves to be harmful to the body, which in turn harms all aspects of your health.
6.You have less creativity.
Neurologists from Stanford conducted a study where they hooked brain imaging equipment up to participants who were then asked to draw a series of images ranging from easy to difficult ones. Difficult images are harder to draw, so it’s only natural that they require more thought. The researchers found that the drawings of harder images were less creative and vice versa with easier images to draw being more creative. Contrary to popular belief that overthinking can help you create new solutions, thinking too much may stunt your creativity.
7.It affects your social skills.
When we spend more time negatively speculating what others think of us, it often creates fear and avoidance of social situations. Imagine all the times you’ve thought that someone does or will dislike you, so you never talk to them. You might miss out on a lot of social opportunities and friends by assuming how people think of you. More often than not, it’s overthinking that makes you act that way and not the person themselves.
If you’re an overthinker, you’re not alone. A study from the University of Michigan found that 73% of 25-35-year-olds and 52% of 45-55-year-olds overthink. It’s a common, human thing to do, but it’s easy to get lost in negative thoughts and hypotheticals. Does overthinking harm you in any of these ways? If so, what are you planning on doing next? Perhaps taking up yoga, meditation, or journaling would help you? Leave a comment down below to tell us what you think!
Aisha Victoria Deeb. “Overthinking Can Shorten Your Life, According to a New Study.” Mashable ME, 20 Oct. 2019, https://me.mashable.com/science/7552/overthinking-can-shorten-your-life-according-to-a-new-study
Dutchen, Stephanie. “New Player in Human Aging.” New Player in Human Aging | Harvard Medical School, Harvard Medical School, 16 Oct. 2019, https://hms.harvard.edu/news/new-player-human-aging.
Morin, Amy. “Science Says This Is What Happens to You When You Overthink Everything.” Inc.com, Inc., 25 Apr. 2017, www.inc.com/amy-morin/science-says-this-is-what-happens-when-you-overthink-things.html.
Ries, Julia. “Here’s What Happens To Your Body When You Overthink.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 6 Feb. 2020, www.huffpost.com/entry/overthinking-effects_l_5dd2bd67e4b0d2e79f90fe1b.
S;, Michl LC;McLaughlin KA;Shepherd K;Nolen-Hoeksema. “Rumination as a Mechanism Linking Stressful Life Events to Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety: Longitudinal Evidence in Early Adolescents and Adults.” Journal of Abnormal Psychology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2 May 2013, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23713497/
Schmerler, Jessica. “Don’t Overthink It, Less Is More When It Comes to Creativity.” Scientific American, Scientific American, 28 May 2015, www.scientificamerican.com/article/don-t-overthink-it-less-is-more-when-it-comes-to-creativity/.
Toohill, Kathleen. “Here’s How Negative Thinking Is Changing Your Brain.” ATTN, ATTN: 1 Jan. 2005, https://archive.attn.com/stories/2587/what-negative-thinking-does-your-brain