What Triggers Overthinking?

Last Updated on December 5, 2022

Is overthinking causing you to freak out a lot?

Then you need to understand it so you can make it stop. Otherwise, overthinking will get the better of you and ruin different aspects of your life.

And as you explore what triggers overthinking, let this article guide you. The idea is to provide you with a clear understanding of the causes of overthinking. 

The goal? Help you find a solution to the problem and allow you to enjoy a life free of too much thinking.

What triggers overthinking in men and women?

Overthinking in men and women is bad. It causes a person’s mental and physical health to decline. 

According to a 2010 study, it makes them analyze a situation more than they should. 

It renders them unproductive. They may not perform usual tasks as well as they should without supervision. Worse, they may not perform them at all.

It also makes them finicky and causes them extreme discomfort. Too much thinking leads to an increased blood pressure level, unnecessary stress, irregular heart rhythm, and more.

Here are the other effects of overthinking on a person’s mental and physical health:

  • Analysis paralysis – They’re stuck without plans of moving. They’re anxious and overwhelmed by mere possibilities.
  • Body aches – Too much thinking about one matter causes them to neglect thinking about their physical health. This leads to body aches, headaches, and stomach problems that are avoidable.
  • Insomnia – They can’t sleep. Entertaining too many thoughts prevents them from going into a relaxed state.
  • Depression – They’re miserable. They dwell too much on matters that are out of their control.

A day in the life of an overthinker

A day in the life of an overthinkerPin

An overthinker experiences at least one effect of overthinking, as mentioned above. They’re prone to analysis paralysis, body aches, insomnia, and depression.

Because of the weight of too many thoughts, they’re under a lot of stress. It stands in the way of their ability to think clearly. And it jeopardizes them throughout their lives.

These are what overthinking can do to them

  • Damaged personal relationships – Only a few people will want to surround themselves with an overthinker. Not their spouse, family, and friends.
  • Irreparable professional reputation – An overthinker, especially one who over-shares their thoughts, is annoying to work with. They also give off negative and unwanted energy.
  • Missed career opportunities – Too much thinking about an opportunity reveals its weaknesses. Overthinkers end up fearful of these weaknesses.
  • Failed business ventures – Overthinkers are prone to failure. They concentrate on a business venture’s cons, instead of their pros.

What triggers overthinking? 7 triggers


Here are the seven causes of overthinking:

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1. Anxiety disorder

Put anxiety and overthinking together, and what you have is a disastrous combination. They make each other worse.

For someone with an anxiety disorder, it’s an impulse to overthink situations. With a mind that thinks too much, it’s difficult not to think of the worst out of every scenario.

So if you’re in this situation, accept you’re in a tough place. It’s tough because what triggers overthinking is a disorder you can’t eliminate or easily treat. 

Therefore, don’t take matters into your own hands. Instead, seek professional help.

What you can do:

  • Approach a physician, therapist, or any other medical professional. To them, relay your personal health information and discuss what you want to achieve.
  • If you already have an attending physician, talk to them. Tell them your disorder is a trigger that causes you to overthink. Then ask them to suggest actionable tips to help you get rid of overthinking despite having a disorder.

2. Regrets

Thinking too much about the past can make you happy. If the best days of your life happened in the past, it’s understandable to want to relive and think too much about the old days.

However, thinking too much about the past is problematic. Stop thinking about wanting to be a better version of yourself in the past.

It’s like carrying around a heavy bag full of things you love but will never need. It’s impractical and a waste of time and energy.

So if your insistence on thinking about the past and your regrets trigger overthinking for you, you need to reframe your mind.

Make peace with your past. Remind yourself that no matter how hard you try, you can’t undo what already happened. While you should have done better back then, you can’t change its outcome now.

If you’re struggling with letting go of a life filled with regrets, here’s a simple solution: 

Do something that’ll lessen how much your regrets can affect you.

It’s not a fix. However, it can help.

Let’s say you regret not visiting your parents while they were still alive. Then you can visit their old home or visit them at the cemetery regularly.

3. Childhood trauma

Many people who overthink developed the habit of overthinking at an early time in their lives. 

They’re wired to overthink because as children, they wanted some sense of control over what’s in front of them. It’s a coping mechanism that got them through scary and tough experiences.

The unfortunate aspect of this?

Many people who matured with this habit don’t outgrow it. Instead, they’re used to their habit of overthinking getting them through overwhelming situations in their adult life. 

The more unfortunate aspect is that it’s challenging to reframe the brain of an adult. Their minds are already set to react — overthink — naturally. However, while challenging, it’s doable.

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Fortunately, there are many ways to treat childhood trauma focused on muting triggers already embedded in a person’s brain. They include somatic treatment and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

4. The need to control

Despite not having a defining or traumatic childhood experience, a person may always want to be in control of their environment. 

On the one hand, this need to control is a good thing. It means a person isn’t reckless. 

They need assurance things will be fine. And they can only have that assurance on one condition: 

They need to be in charge.

Then again, the need to control is also a terrible thing. It’s what triggers overthinking in some people. It also implies a lack of confidence in others’ ability to keep things under control.

Albeit indirectly, they’re saying another individual can’t assure them things will be fine. It’s insulting. And of many things, it negatively affects personal and professional relationships.

So if you feel the need to always be in control, pause. Assess a situation well for a while then stop thinking too much of it. 

Let go of all, if not some, of the load and delegate tasks to others. It’s beneficial to you and to them, too. You need to believe they can also get the job done.

5. Personal worries

Worrying about some things is normal. People worry about their health, job, money, and more. If someone doesn’t worry about these things, there might be something fishy going on.

However, while worrying isn’t bad, worrying too much is.

That’s why they should learn to control their worries and let some positive thoughts occupy their minds, too. They need to keep tabs on their worries and intervene as they see fit. It’s one way for them to avoid getting overwhelmed.

If you’re in their position, consider doing the same thing, too.

You can list down your worries on a piece of paper. Then set a time when you should do something about them.

Let’s say you listed down your health as one of the worries you have. What you should do then is enumerate ways you can stop worrying too much about your health.

You can:

  • Consult with a medical professional regularly
  • Get enough rest
  • Eat balanced meals
  • Eat fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid a sedentary lifestyle
  • Exercise

6. Perfectionism

Usually, perfectionism isn’t about being perfect. Instead, it’s about wanting to feel perfect. And it’s about wanting to be free of the tiniest error.

A person who struggles with perfectionism is prone to overthinking things because they feel something isn’t “perfect enough”. They obsess over making something better and more presentable.

For example, you know a writer struggles with perfectionism if they’re taking too long to publish a blog post they finished months before. They’re having a hard time putting it out there because they keep thinking of possible mistakes and/or improvements to it.

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This needs to stop. Not only does this cause delays. This also encourages them to find mistakes that may not even be there.

If you’re a perfectionist who wants to stop overthinking, you need to fix your attitude. You need to stop scrutinizing situations even if you believe you could have performed better.

Remind yourself it’s okay to deal with things that aren’t perfect. And it matters less if you committed mistakes.

The important thing is you made progress.

So if you’re that writer who hasn’t published a blog post they finished months before, you should think about finally publishing it.

7. Uncertainty

Not knowing what lies ahead is terrifying. It’s understandable how uncertainty is what triggers overthinking in some people.

People who overthink because of uncertainty are stuck with a bunch of questions they don’t know the answers to. And as a way of coping with these unanswered questions, they may even generate a variety of hypothetical scenarios.

If you’re one of these people who get triggered to overthink because of uncertainty, you’re in a tricky situation. Life is mostly about dealing with uncertain situations. If your default reaction to an uncertain situation is to panic, you’re doomed.

You’ll panic every time. Unless you commit to reframing your mind, that is.

Reframing your mindset may take a while. Months or even years of hard work need to be invested.

Aside from somatic treatment and EMDR, there are other ways that’ll help you reframe your mind. Simple ones include playing video games, making art, and travelling.

Related: How Do You Fight Overthinking?

What triggers overthinking for you?

What triggers overthinking differs from one person to another. Based on their experiences in life, the trigger is subjective. 

A person may be overthinking because of an incident in their life. And they may be doing it because of one or more of the triggers mentioned above. The trigger may also be unique for them.

That’s how it is with you, too. You’re prone to overthinking based on your life experiences.

A simple way to know the exact cause of what triggers overthinking for you, be observant. Observe the times you overthink. Observe two or three instances you overthink.

Then find out a common trigger during those instances.

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