There are 10 types of overthinking – here’s how to identify them, according to an expert
Written by Leah Sinclair
Overthinking is something that many people battle with – but there are various types to identify it, as noted by expert Nawal Mustafa in a recent Instagram post.
Overthinking is something we’re all capable of doing from time to time.
Whether we’re recalling something we’ve said and debating whether we shouldn’t have or analysing a situation and how it might affect our future, it’s easy to get stuck in our own heads, playing out different scenarios and working ourselves up into a frenzy.
But when it comes to overthinking, there are various types that can all affect us differently – and being able to identify how we’re overthinking is key to moving past it.
One person addressing this is Nawal Mustafa. The PhD candidate and popular Instagrammer took to the platform to share her insights into the 10 types of overthinking.
It is crucial for us to become aware of our thought patterns because they determine how we ultimately feel in a situation,” she told her 844,000 followers.
In the post, the first type of overthinking that Mustafa mentioned was mind-reading, which she describes as “when we jump conclusions by assuming we know what others are thinking”.
“We may have an idea of what someone might be thinking, but it can become an irrational thought when we tend to lean toward the negative interpretations instead of positive,” she writes.
Worrying about the future is another type of overthinking according to Mustafa, which she says is also known as “fortune-telling”.
“We may jump to conclusions by processing the worst-case scenario and negative “what ifs” when we have no evidence to back our predictions,” she says.
Next up, Mustafa highlights mental filtering as a type of overthinking – focusing on the negative aspects of a situation while disqualifying all the positives – for example, dwelling on a single negative comment from a boss and ignoring all the other positive feedback.
This was followed by emotional reasoning, which she describes as “assuming that our negative emotions reflect the truth”.
“Our feelings are a reflection of our thoughts. But as you can evaluate through this post, our thoughts are not always true.”
While it’s common to overthink about the future and what might happen, people can also overthink things that have already taken place in the past.
“Rumination about the past [is] to constantly repeat the memory of an event in the past that was upsetting, hurtful [or] embarrassing,” says Mustafa.
This can be through shaming and criticising yourself for a mistake you made by replaying the scenario in your mind over and over.
Other types of overthinking highlighted in the post included using ‘should’ statements, when we focus on how things should be based on the unrealistic expectations we have for others or ourselves; overgeneralising and drawing a faulty conclusion about something based on one experience and giving yourself a label because of a negative experience you had and getting stuck in a negative thought loop.
“This usually leads to low self-worth,” she warns.
Hopelessness is also noted as a sign of overthinking, as you fixate “on a thought based on a circumstance to the point that you may start to truly believe it,” along with having an “all-or-nothing” way of thinking, where you only evaluate yourself or others in extreme, black-or-white categories.
“It is important to regularly challenge our unhelpful thoughts and catch ourselves when we are overthinking,” Mustafa captioned the post.
“When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, I encourage you to take a few minutes to recognise what thoughts you are having and whether they fall under one of the cognitive distortions listed here.”
She then advises people to try and reframe these thoughts into more “realistic ones”.
“This practice can tremendously benefit the way we show up for ourselves, at work and in relationships.”
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