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An Overthinker’s Nightmare

A few years ago I remodeled my kitchen. Having to make that many decisions is an overthinker’s nightmare. If you’ve ever remodeled, you know that it’s one decision after another — fixtures, appliances, countertops, paint. Do you even know how many models of faucets are made?

People who overthink feel like their brains won’t turn off. They are constantly questioning, second-guessing, and evaluating to the extent that they create analysis paralysis, or the inability to make decisions.

Overthinking is common among anxious perfectionists. It is obsessive thinking or ruminating. Sometimes you can’t even decide something simple like what you want for dinner. Instead you say “I don’t know” or “I don’t care” and inevitably annoy your partner or friends because you never seem to have an opinion.

It’s easier for overthinkers to let someone else decide. For example, I tend to order the same thing repeatedly when I go out to eat. It’s just easier than choosing something unknown.

Even after agonizing over choices, overthinkers tend to regret their decisions and second-guess themselves.
Overthinkers tend to:

  • analyze things to death
  • second-guess everything
  • catastrophize or expect the worst
  • have insomnia
  • hate making decisions
  • prefer someone else to decide for them
  • regret often
  • struggle with letting things go
  • take things personally
  • be perfectionists
  • criticize themselves a lot
  • never feel 100 percent certain
  • feel anxious
  • feel like they can’t turn their brains off

Overthinkers easily get caught up in the “what-ifs.” What if I make the wrong choice? What if I wear the wrong thing? What if my boss hates my idea? What if my boyfriend disagrees?

Below are some ways to get out of an overthinking rut:

  • Plan a time to think about it.
    For example, you can schedule yourself worry time from 8:00 – 8:15. Whenever you notice you are worrying or overthinking, redirect and remind yourself that you can think about this issue at 8:00, but until then you are focusing on other things. This way you aren’t thinking about it all day and letting it interfere with your productivity.
  • Put a time limit on it.
    Similar to above, don’t allow yourself endless time to decide or worry. Allow a reasonable amount of time and when it’s over, you can no longer think about it. It’s done.
  • Limit your choices.
    I didn’t have to look at all 12,000 refrigerator models. And you don’t have to read the review of every single parenting book on Amazon before making a choice. Fewer choices make deciding easier.
  • Distract yourself.
    Distraction is a very practical strategy that we all use. Sometimes you need to find something else to do or think about to divert your attention. Talking to a friend, watching a funny video, reading, or music can do the trick.
  • Firmly tell yourself to stop thinking about it.
    Snapping a rubber band against your wrist serves the same purpose. It’s almost a wake-up call to startle yourself into thinking and acting differently.
  • Write it down.
    Simply writing the worry or dilemma down can help clear your mind and clarify your options and priorities.
  • Let go of perfection.
    Life isn’t perfect. Just focus on making a “good enough” decision. Most decisions are not life-altering. I knew that if I hated Serene Grey on my kitchen walls, I could repaint it.
  • Embrace mistakes.
    Taking action and making decision means that sometimes they will be wrong or people may disagree. The alternative is never trying anything, never stating an opinion, never getting what you really want. That’s no way to live.
  • Stay in the present.
    When your mind is wandering into “what-if land,” practice some mindful meditation or grounding to bring your focus back to the present.

Don’t let yourself get stuck in indecision. Life is too short. When you’re trying to change, practice is always key.

An Overthinker’s Nightmare

Sharon Martin

Sharon Martin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in private practice in San Jose, CA. Her expertise is in helping perfectionists and people-pleasers develop self-compassion and self-worth. Her blog, Grow Happiness, focuses on ways to create balanced, peaceful lives in our stressed world. Sharon can be reached via her website and on Twitter.

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APA Reference
Martin, S. (2018). An Overthinker’s Nightmare. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 18 Sep 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.