Is Anxious Overthinking Affecting your Social Life?
Anxiously overthinking a social interaction is a common event. We all likely have experienced a time when we couldn’t stop ruminating over a conversation we had, thinking about everything we said what we could have said differently. For those of us with anxiety disorders, this type of anxious overthinking can spiral out of control, affect our social lives, and even make our anxiety worse. I personally have a huge problem with overthinking. Is she mad at me? Did I say something wrong? I think I may have talked too much. I wonder if they think I’m a person who talks too much. I should have said something different. Are these thoughts as familiar to you as they are to me?
Cognitive Distortions Cause Anxious Overthinking
Anxious overthinking, in general, often means engaging in cognitive distortions, which are thoughts that convince us that something is true without real evidence. When I overanalyze an interaction I had, my thoughts fit into the cognitive distortion categories of catastrophizing, should statements, mind-reading, and emotional reasoning.
I focus on what I should or shouldn’t have said, I feel like the things I shouldn’t have said are the end of the world, and I convince myself that I know the person was thinking the absolute worst of me. I can walk away from a conversation feeling like it went well and proceed to overanalyze every beat, every microexpression, and every possible way my words could have come across, leaving me with a twisted idea of how the interaction went based on false assumptions created from my own imagination.
Spending too much time ruminating can cause our brains to accept our twisted thoughts as the truth, leading us to make decisions based on our false assumptions. It creates self-doubt and feeds insecurity. You don’t enjoy your time with friends as much when you overthink everything because you’re living in the past instead of the present. It makes us less likely to reach out to others, make friendships, and enjoy social events that we could enjoy if we weren’t so busy overthinking.
For years, I was afraid to ask friends to spend time with me because I thought I might be bothering them. I was afraid to talk to new people because I worried that I would say something wrong or they would reject me. My anxiety-fueled insecurity deprived me of potential friendships and relationships.
Challenging Cognitive Distortions Curbs Anxious Overthinking
One way to cope with anxious overthinking is called cognitive restructuring, which is a major part of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Every time I find myself overthinking and using cognitive distortions, I try to remind myself that my thoughts aren’t an accurate reflection of what happened. I ask myself whether my thoughts have any evidence, and even if they do, if it’s as big of a deal as I’m making it out to be in my mind.
One mistake won’t break a relationship worth having, and if someone judges my entire character off of one mistake, that person’s opinion isn’t one I need to care about anyway. I also try to remind myself that people don’t think about us as much as we think they do. We are the main characters of our own lives but only secondary or background characters in theirs.
Challenging cognitive distortions isn’t easy. The emotional part of your brain listens to feelings and isn’t easily swayed by facts and evidence. You can know something is untrue and still feel that it is true, but every time we challenge our cognitive distortions, we loosen the grip our emotions have over us just a little bit more.
How do you deal with anxious overthinking? What is your experience, socially, when it comes to overthinking? Share your stories in the comments.