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What percentage of people are Overthinkers?


Are you constantly worrying about what other people think of you? By S. Blake Lanier, M.S.W., L.C.S.W.

#TheMoment, Web Exclusive
Jul, 2021

Overthink too much? Are you constantly worrying about what other people think of you?

One of the critical milestones in childhood development is what psychologists call “theory of mind.” Theory of mind, which develops between four and five years of age, is the recognition that other people are mental beings capable of having their own thoughts and feelings. The ability to think about what others are thinking is an essential part of effective communication. Healthy relationships depend on our ability to think about others’ thoughts and feelings and consider others’ perspectives.

This incredible gift, however, has the potential to create problems for us. One problem is overthinking about others’ perceptions of us.

This is particularly true if we overthink if others negatively judge us and then base our identity (“Who am I?”) on these thoughts. Spending too much time in this thought pattern can lead to difficulties like excessive worry, self-doubt, shame, anxiety and depression.

When we assume we know what other people are thinking about us, we filter our assumptions through our own thoughts, feelings, experiences and biases. We risk jumping to conclusions when we think we know what someone else is thinking about us. Overthinking about others’ perceptions of us can limit our ability to enjoy life to the fullest. At its worst, it can lead to deep emotional pain. Often, when things feel awful, it’s because we have convinced ourselves that we know for sure what others are thinking about us. In other words, our thoughts become our perceived reality.

William Ickes, a psychologist at the University of Texas, studies the phenomenon of thinking about what other people are thinking. He is specifically interested in what he calls “empathic accuracy”—how correct we are when we infer what others are thinking. His research, and that of other social scientists, found that we are bad at knowing what other people are thinking. People who are strangers to one another are correct only 20 percent of the time. Close friends and people in committed relationships are right only 35 percent of the time. These findings suggest that when we think we know what someone else is thinking, we are usually wrong! It turns out we are not the mind-readers we thought we were.

It’s natural to think about what other people think about us. Doing so is an essential part of healthy relationships. But to avoid the problems that can come with overthinking, try the following steps:

  • Know your own thoughts first. What do you think about who you are? Don’t rush to form an answer here; give this some dedicated thought. Try and separate your thoughts from what you think others think.
  • Know your own feelings. Once you identify your own thoughts, ask yourself how you feel about those thoughts. Does your self-perception lead you to feel good or bad?
  • Bear in mind the possibility that you might be wrong when you assume you know what other people are thinking about you. Even in close relationships, research suggests we’ll be wrong 65 percent of the time and 80 percent of the time with people we don’t know! Hold in your mind the possibility you can’t truly know what other people are thinking, even when it feels like you do.
  • Ask, don’t think. In situations where it matters what other people think—and there are situations where it matters (e.g., job reviews or close personal relationships)—ask instead of assuming. You might say something like, “Hey, sometimes I worry I might not measure up to your expectations. It would be helpful if you would share your thoughts about this with me.” Yes (!) these are conversations that take a lot of courage but trying to have an open discussion instead of holding the fear on your own can ultimately be clarifying and freeing.
  • Get out of your head. If you are not quite ready for a direct conversation, or a discussion is not possible, do something to snap yourself out of the downward spiral of overthinking. Telling yourself, “Just stop thinking about it!” doesn’t work for most people. Oftentimes, the most effective way to stop overthinking is to replace your thoughts with other (less troublesome) thoughts. Exercising, helping a friend solve a problem, breathing while listening to music, working on a project that requires concentration are just a few ways to help break an overthinking trance.
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S. Blake Lanier, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. is a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice. For more than 20 years, he has provided clinical services to youth, adults and family systems as well as mental health training and consultation to for-profit and non-profit organizations. Blake grew up in The Salvation Army as an officers’ child and specializes in the provision of clinical, research and consultation services for Salvation Army candidates, cadets, officers and officer families. Blake leads a team of mental health professionals that facilitate the Coaching Action Plan and Officer Support Plan programs for theCentral, Eastern, and Southern Territories. Blake previously served as a clinical professor in the social work graduate program at Kennesaw State University, where he taught advanced clinical practice. He is a Gottman Marriage Therapist, a Certified Birkman Consultant, and a Certified Mental Health First Aid instructor. Blake is also a master trainer for Cirque du Soleil’s Global Citizenship Division and teaches performing artists and community workers how to intervene with vulnerable populations through arts-based psychosocial programming. He and his wife, Jill, live, work and play in Atlanta, Georgia. Blake is kept adequately fueled by running, coffee, and sushi.

There’s A Scientific Reason Why You’re Always Overthinking Everything

carrie bradshaw

All women overthink things. Our thoughts tend to go into overdrive and we become super analytical about the smallest details: conversations, body language, a cyber exchange, memories — anything. It’s a common stereotype that is often humoured, but it turns out there is actually scientific backing to it.

A study reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease has confirmed that women overthink more than men do, due to their brains having more activity.

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In the biggest brain imaging survey ever conducted, researchers at Amen Clinics in California analysed data from more than 45,000 studies and concluded that women’s brains are significantly more active than men’s.

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The study found that the brains of women were especially more active in the frontal cortex, which is involved with focus and impulse control, as well as the limbic emotional areas of the brain which are linked to mood and anxiety.

It also found that blood flow was higher in women’s brains compared to men’s, meaning they are more likely to empathise, be collaborative, be intuitive and be more focussed. Though, this also increases their susceptibility to develop anxiety, depression, insomnia and eating disorders.

Women have higher rates of Alzheimer’s disease compared to men, as well as depression and anxiety disorders, whereas men are more likely to have ADHD, conduct-related problems and incarceration.

‘This is a very important study to help understand gender-biased brain differences,’ said Dr Daniel G Amen, lead author and founder of Amen Clinics Inc. ‘The quantifiable differences we identified between men and women are important for understanding gender-biased risk for brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.’

Dr. George Perry, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dean of the College of Sciences at The University of Texas at San Antonio, thinks finding out gender differences will help couples communicate better. ‘Precisely defining the physiological and structural basis of gender differences in brain function will illuminate Alzheimer’s disease and understanding our partners,’ he said.

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Yes, the Trump diehards can be expected to rise up against Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg. But that still wouldn’t earn him a single additional vote.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event.

Donald Trump needs to grow his support, not merely rev up people who already care deeply about his every utterance and obsession. | Ron Johnson/AP Photo

By Alexander Burns 03/20/2023 02:18 PM EDT

Alexander Burns is an associate editor for global politics at POLITICO. His Tomorrow column explores the future of politics and policy debates that cross national lines.

The widely expected indictment of Donald Trump in Manhattan has all the makings of a political disaster for him. It should be the climactic event in a yearslong saga involving marital infidelity, sleazy financial dealings and now the first-ever criminal charge against a former American president.

Naturally, the question arises: Could this actually be good for Trump?

That thought generates itself by reflex in America’s political brain. It is a habit forged in 2016, when Trump defied countless terminal prognoses to defeat Hillary Clinton.

It is not irrational speculation. Americans have a history of sticking with flamboyant politicians with more than a passing relationship with the criminal justice system, from Marion Barry in Washington, D.C., to Edwin Edwards in Louisiana. Trump is a character from a similar mold, with an even tighter grip on his followers that verges at times on the quasi-mystical. At another point in his political life, perhaps Trump might have turned this case into rich fodder for a comeback.

Not now. For all his unusual strengths, Trump is defined these days more by his weaknesses — personal and political deficiencies that have grown with time and now figure to undermine any attempt to exploit the criminal case against him.

His base of support is too small, his political imagination too depleted and his instinct for self-absorption too overwhelming for him to marshal a broad, lasting backlash. His determination to look inward and backward has been a problem for his campaign even without the indictment. It will be a bigger one if and when he’s indicted.

Tracking Trump investigations

  • Trump surrenders for alleged role in porn star hush money payment:Former President Donald Trump turned himself in Tuesday to authorities in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, where he was booked on criminal charges connected to his alleged role in a hush money payment made to a porn star.
  • Classified docs probe:A federal appeals court has rejected Trump’s bid to block special counsel Jack Smith from obtaining key documents in the probe of Trump’s handling of classified documents.
  • Fulton County and 2020 election:Trump’s attorney urged a state court in Georgia to prohibit an Atlanta-area DA from filing charges related to his bid to subvert the 2020 election.
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Trump has been unusually resilient against scandal over the years thanks to the unbreakable loyalty of voters who see him as their champion in the arena. My colleagues David Siders and Adam Wren reported that Republicans expect Trump to But those supporters are a minority of the country, as Republicans have learned the hard way several times over. Stimulating Trump’s personal following was not enough to save the House for his party in 2018 or to defend the White House and the Senate in 2020, or to summon a red wave in 2022.

Trump needs to grow his support, not merely rev up people who already care deeply about his every utterance and obsession. It is not likely that many Americans who are not already part of Trump’s base will be inspired to join it because they feel he is being mistreated by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Personality-cult politics, on its own, has never really been a winning model for Trump. At his strongest moments, he has convinced voters that Trumpism is about far more than Trump — that it is not merely a jumble of racist and sexist outbursts and weird grudges against the likes of Rosie O’Donnell and Megyn Kelly, but a worldview that might transform America. Trump’s great success in 2016 was his ability to persuade tens of millions of Americans to see him as a stand-in for their own grievances and yearnings.

The most memorable moment in his convention speech that year was when he declared the United States was horrifically broken and “I alone can fix it.” His critics rightly saw it as a telling display of a narcissistic and authoritarian mindset.

But the bit in that speech that best conveyed Trump’s appeal was one taking aim at the Clinton catch phrase, “I’m With Her.” Trump’s rejoinder: “I choose to recite a different pledge. My pledge reads: ‘I’m With You.’”

Suddenly Clinton was the self-absorbed one and he was the tribune of plebs.

It is hard for a candidate to tell voters “I’m with you” when he is mainly consumed with narrow, personal complaints and crackpot conspiracy theories. Plenty of Americans can see themselves in an older white man scorned by liberals and the media for his crude manner and bigoted ideas. Fewer are likely to see themselves in a wealthy husband paying hush money to conceal his debauched sex life and whining about the unfairness of his circumstances in every public outing.

Bill Clinton survived impeachment and finished his second term as a popular president by persuading voters that he was balancing budgets and keeping them safe while Newt Gingrich and Ken Starr pilfered his underwear drawer. More recently, Ralph Northam overcame a blackface scandal and completed his term as governor of Virginia by promising to devote himself to fighting racial inequality. (One civil rights leader in Richmond captured the appeal of this approach, Abroad, Benjamin Netanyahu endured as the leader of Israel’s political right while fighting corruption charges, and returned in December to serve as prime minister, by arguing to voters that he was his country’s only true steward of national security and the allegations against him were a left-wing plot — a distraction from things that really matter.

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Trump does not have much to say about things that really matter.

Unlike the Trump of 2016, who shattered the policy orthodoxy of the GOP establishment and reshaped the party’s ideology in his own image, the Trump of today contributes nothing new to the Republican agenda.

He has fallen behind the times even compared to his current and former allies. In South Carolina, he ridiculed electric cars standing beside Gov. Henry McMaster, a 75-year-old loyalist who like other Republican governors has promoted his state as a hub for EV manufacturing. When the Supreme Court abolished the constitutional right to abortion, Trump largely declined to address the most significant consequence of his own judicial appointments. It was Mike Pence, his excommunicated vice president, who hailed the decision as a transcendent victory for the right to life and vowed to carry forward the battle against abortion.

On the war in Ukraine, Trump speaks for a faction of the GOP when he derides it as a waste of money that is not America’s problem to solve. He is alone among Republican candidates in threading that view with admiring commentary about Vladimir Putin. His hostile view of China — a subject on which he reshaped American political discourse — remains compromised by his tendency to talk about Xi Jinping like a golfing buddy.

None of this is to say that Trump cannot win the Republican nomination, or even the presidency. Elections are unpredictable. But it is past time to give up the idea that stoking the anger of Trump’s diehard fans is a victory unto itself.

If each scandal or blunder binds 99 percent of his base closer to him and unsettles 1 percent, that is still a losing formula for a politician whose base is an electoral minority. Trump cannot shed fractional support with every controversy but make it up on volume.

The question before Republicans is whether they need another lesson from the electorate in the perils of running on a version of Trumpism that is all about Trump. A campaign about Jan. 6 and Stormy Daniels is not one that is likely to end well for Republicans.

That is a mortal problem for Trump’s candidacy.

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