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Overthinking And Anxiety

Yesterday, I found myself sitting across the table from a lady with a PhD in regenerative medicine, and pursuing yet another doctorate in certain aspects of brain cancer treatment. As we spoke and discussed our work, the topic of overthinking came up.

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Now, most of us know at least one overthinker. This was however, perhaps the first time I was meeting an overthinker who explicitly mentioned her not experiencing stress or anxiety as a result of her overthinking.

This set me thinking, and here’s what I came up with. It’s just a perspective, so please feel free to disagree and share your own thoughts on the subject.

  1. Overthinking results in the generation of a number of outcomes. Depending on our emotional state, these outcomes can be desirable, undesirable or neutral, with undesirable outcomes subject to aversion and desirable ones, subject to want. Additionally the quantum of desirable or undesirable outcomes also plays a role in this scenario.
  2. Individuals harbor perceptions about their ability to manage undesirable outcomes, and bring about / cause desirable outcomes. Within the context of an outcome, desirable or undesirable, there will be second level outcomes or possibilities, again perceived by the individual as negative or positive.
  3. An underconfident individual will therefore likely develop anxiety and stress. Others are more probable to experience heightened sense of concern and perhaps vigilance. Further, in the context of quantum of outcomes, one may experience extreme distress or euphoria depending on the perceived polarity of known outcomes.

The quantum of stress and anxiety will also be compounded by undesirable outcomes from similar experiences from the past, in anticipation of similarity.

The above breakdown greatly simplifies introspection and diagnosis, and quickly gives us something constructive to think about or a notional therapeutic path to follow.

* With inputs from Renu Handa and Richa Daryani.

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