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#Untabooing One Mental Illness At A Time: Why Is Overthinking Still Not Mainstream?

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With the debate surrounding mental health having reached cataclysmic levels, it is but obvious that the issue of depression has taken up the complete spotlight. Catalyzed by events such as the pandemic and the recent suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput, India has finally joined the wagon where conversations about mental well-being have started becoming mainstream.

Besides reinforcing the need to seek help, it also sets the stage for another uncomfortable argument. In taking the frontline, is depression the only demon that the human mind is fighting, or are there others which secretly attack? Are we looking so hard for its symptoms that we are missing signs of the others? What about the act of overthinking- where does it fit in the entire dialogue? Is it so underrated that it doesn’t qualify as a problem worth talking about?

Representational image.

What Is Overthinking?

A strong imagery of overthinking that can be visualised by understanding the rocking chair syndrome or RCS. This new age syndrome, as I read somewhere, is like sitting on a rocking chair for hours, giving oneself the false perception of progress, whereas, in reality, it’s about going over one thing over and over again and not moving anywhere.

That’s exactly how an overthinker behaves, one moment he is proud of himself for having found the perfect solution, the other moment the same thought becomes unreasonable and malignant. Going over it again and again to a point where, in his head, he even starts living through the consequences of each of those options.

And then the problem shifts from the crisis at hand to getting rid of the overpowering feeling of overthinking.

In a rush to calm down, he shuts his ears to all forms of advice and does only what he thinks will bring his thoughts to rest. It might be the worst decision ever, but nothing at the moment can stop him from doing what his mind tells him is right. Once done, he feels in control, his thoughts stop racing, and finally, sleep takes over.

How Does It Appear?

Trivial at its first glance, overthinking can be triggered by anything routine, it doesn’t have to be a major accident or incident which leaves a frightful impact on our minds. Given a scenario where one has had an ugly fight with one of his best friends, a non over thinker might wait a day before reaching out.

On the flip side, an overthinker will start getting these rampant thoughts-  Should I call him now to say sorry? It’s already been five minutes. Or should I wait for some more time? But how could he do this to me, what if he doesn’t want me anymore in his life? I think he should be apologizing, but wait, I did say really mean things too. Let me send one text, oh wait, it’s not getting delivered. Has he blocked me? Let me block him too, but what about the nasty things I said in return? He is not even taking my calls now, what if he has hurt himself, he seemed really angry? How will I ever forgive myself?

And it goes on, each thought becoming darker and deadlier than the other. It’s like oxygen steadily leaving his system, bit by bit, till it chokes him and he can do nothing about it, especially during the wee hours of the morning when there is no one to talk to.

It is like that annoying little pain which he tries to ignore, put away for another time but it keeps coming back over and over again at odd hours during the day, clouding his judgment, pushing him into the darkness, forcing him to make a decision exactly opposite of what would have otherwise been the right thing to do.

Why No One Else Understands?

“But why is overthinking even a thing? Why can’t you let it go? Isn’t it the same as anxiety and stress?” Often I get to hear these questions when I probe my friends on the subject. In their definition, it’s called “being negative”,  “why think about what could go wrong in the first place?”

On the receiving end of phrases like “stop thinking too much, you are just overthinking, just let it be”, an overthinker is always put off in our society.

Nobody wants to listen to him, he is always silenced and his fears are usually brushed under the carpet of pessimism. But it’s only he who understands that when brushed off, they come back stronger and more powerful than before. The struggle, therefore, is real; overwhelming, refusing to stay ignored. 

It’s Important To Start

With India now slowly accepting depression as a mainstream conversation and approving to offer help openly in their social media posts, I think that it is the right time to start placing overthinking on the grid. As a society, we need to #untaboo a step further, start a fresh new dialogue, and acknowledge overthinking as just another harsh reality of life.

An issue -unspoken, unheard, and therefore unrealized. Yet.

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