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6 health problems caused by overthinking

Chronic worriers, you may be damaging your health in more ways than one.

Written by Sandhya Raghavan |Updated : February 1, 2018 10:46 AM IST

Do you have the habit of reading between the lines? Do you struggle with anxiety and sleeplessness? Have you been accused at least once of being an overthinker? If this sounds like you, you are an over thinker. Habitual worriers can't help over analysing everything. For them, it's impossible to keep calm or to take one day at a time. But remember, constant fretting and worrying may be claiming for than just your mental peace. When your mind is continuously in a state of flux, your body experiences a surge of cortisol, which impacts your health in the long run. Here's what happens when you are constantly overthinking.

1. It impacts your brain

This one's a no-brainer (pardon the pun) but one of the most obvious casualties of over thinking and stress is the brain. Stress tends to have a profound effect on the organ. Cortisol can damage and kill brain cells in the hippocampus. Chronic over thinking can also alter brain functions by changing its structure and connectivity. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley also revealed that chronic stress causes mental problems such as anxiety and mood disorders.1

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2. It affects your digestive system

Overthinking can cause stress, which in turn affects your digestive system. Exposure to stress results in gastrointestinal problems such as inflammatory bowel diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, alterations in gastrointestinal motility and gastric secretions, increase in intestinal permeability and changes in the intestinal microbiota.2

3. It affects your heart

Chronic over thinking and worrying can put your cardiovascular health at risk. Chest pains, tachycardia, light-headedness, etc. are some of the problems that over thinking can pose. Risk factors such as depression, substance abuse and sleep difficulties associated with chronic worrying can also compound the problem.3

4. It can ruin your skin

Constant anxiety, stress and over thinking affects the skin. Emotional stress caused by worrying can affect or even worsen a number of skin disorders like psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, pruritus, alopecia, areata and seborrheic dermatitis. Stress causes inflammation in the body, which leads to flare-ups on the skin. The complex interconnected system of the skin, endocrine system and the immune system get affected by chronic stress, worsening skin diseases.4

5. It can suppress the immune system

Have you noticed that you often fall sick when you are stressed or anxious? That's because stress causes the release of cortisol in the body, which in turn weakens the immune system. When your body's natural defences are suppressed, it becomes more vulnerable to infections and diseases.5

6. It increases cancer risks

Over thinking leads to stress and constant activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis impairs the immune responses, which causes certain cancers to develop and progress.6


1.Bremner, J. D. (2006). Stress and Brain Atrophy. CNS & Neurological Disorders Drug Targets, 5(5), 503 512.

2.Konturek, P. C., Brzozowski, T., & Konturek, S. J. (2011). Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options. J Physiol Pharmacol, 62(6), 591-599.

3. Ouakinin, S. R. S. (2016). Anxiety as a Risk Factor for Cardiovascular Diseases. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 7, 25.

4. Tausk, F. A., & Nousari, H. (2001). Stress and the skin. Archives of dermatology, 137(1), 78-82.

5. Segerstrom, S. C., & Miller, G. E. (2004). Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry. Psychological Bulletin, 130(4), 601 630.

6. Reiche, E. M. V., Nunes, S. O. V., & Morimoto, H. K. (2004). Stress, depression, the immune system, and cancer. The lancet oncology, 5(10), 617-625.

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