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Original photo by Ananya Bathla

Mapping the Mind of an Overthinker

Edited by Arnav Diwan


To understand the mind of an overthinker, we would need access to basic science. So here is a summary of it for those who, like me, forgot all about science after the 10th grade.

We know that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. We also know that cause-effect relations can be established for almost all things in life. This leads us to the conclusion that every event or experience has a consequence, the effects of which can last from anywhere 15 minutes to several years. Most of the time, the effects disappear within the span of a day. This helps most of us get over situations that we find ourselves in, be they embarrassing, irritating or infuriating. 

But this is not how the mind of an overthinker works. Getting over things and moving on is not in their vocabulary. Even if they know that their actions don’t have life changing consequences, they will still assume the worst.

This is the typical flow of thought in the mind of an overthinker – Oh God! I didn’t do well in the test today. I am never going to get a good post-graduation. And then if my post-graduation is a flop, then I will never be able to find a job! This will affect how successful I am, and I will be lagging behind, while everyone will be doing well. This rant is all thanks to a simple test the overthinker didn’t do well in. So, somehow, they manage to map a cause-effect relation of one event to their whole life. This is sadly a summary of a long war that rages in the head of an overthinker.

Thus, overthinking can be defined as a loop of unproductive thoughts. Like any psychological phenomena, overthinking also has many levels. At extreme cases, overthinking can be very severe, affecting mental health and leading to severe cases of anxiety disorder, depression, and detachment from reality. At mild levels, it can cause stress and emotional imbalance.

But the person can find a way to come out of it without any permanent effects on their health, and it is usually a once-in a lifetime type of occurrence.

The people I would like to talk about are those stationed at moderate levels, who find it difficult to come out of their downward spiral on their own, and usually turn to a friend or family member for help, or in a bad situation, turn to alcohol or other addictions. They are normally stressed out about their life more than they should be, thus causing insomnia, eating disorders etc.

Any level of overthinking can leave even the smartest of people completely baffled. The way an overthinker makes the simplest of situations a complexity, can lead to dilemmas. But it is not something that they can help or overcome at ease. Being an overthinker myself, I can safely say that the practice can take over your mind within a blink of an eye. If I get the courage to answer a question in class, the next two days will be spent agonizing over every detail of that answer, including how it would have been received, what people would be thinking of me now. The truth is that, like any college student, no one would have really paid attention to me or my answer– making my spiral of thoughts completely unnecessary. But, of course, my mind doesn’t seem to take that fact into account ever.   

But on the brighter side of things, if you have ever had the chance to hear the flow of thoughts of an overthinker, you would make sure that they enter a comedy show. It is such a string of nonsense and weird connections, that one cannot help laughing, even if the situation is severe. Maybe that is a good thing, because it makes the overthinker realize how completely stupid they sound. I have had the joy of laughing at my friends and the embarrassment of being laughed at. The explosion of thoughts in the canvas of my mind, reminds me of fireworks lit up in the night sky. It’s funny and interesting, but at the same time a little terrifying.

Overthinking is, no doubt, a psychological phenomenon that needs to be addressed before it becomes very extreme. No one realizes they are overthinking until they start to feel the effect of it, and that can last for months. With the number of twists and turns that the mind of an overthinker experiences, it’s hard to map its route. But the end result is the same for all, and to avoid such an end, we need to fight as hard as we can against this. Easier said than done, I know, but as the cliché quote says, “Yesterday is history, Tomorrow is a mystery, Today is a gift and that’s why they call it the present!” 



Aspiring Wanderer and Professional Over-thinker
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