Overanalyzing or excessively thinking can lead to feeling stuck or paralyzed.

Analysis Paralysis and Anxiety

 

What is it?

Overanalyzing or excessively thinking can lead to feeling stuck or paralyzed.  Although the individual intends to come to a decision or solution, the individual is stuck in their thoughts and unable to. The analysis paralysis process is an endless loop in which distressing emotions lead an individual to think more about a decision, which heightens the distress experienced, paralyzes the individual, and leads to more thinking. 

The experience and its impact

  • Anxiety: Anxiety is an automatic response to stress.  It also serves a useful purpose: to steer clear of any threat, prepare for future danger, and ultimately, survive. For some individuals, any amount of anxiety leads to difficulty functioning, and the intensity of this anxiety feels overpowering. The individual might also experience worries thoughts, such as thinking about the worst possible outcome in an attempt to avoid the worst possible outcome, and may continue to think about how this worst-case scenario can be avoided.  The individual might continue to search for solutions, while experiencing increased distress and being consumed by worst-case scenarios, thereby leading to paralysis.
  • Perfectionism:  For individuals living with perfectionism, anything short of perfection is not acceptable. Satisfactory and “good enough” are out of the question.  The goal is to find a solution that is the right answer, with a 100% guarantee of success. Sometimes, the focus, energy, and time spent on finding the “correct” solution becomes so overpowering that the individual does not act at all.  Although the individual might look like they are procrastinating, they might actually be experiencing analysis paralysis. 
  • Overwhelm:  If an individual is met with an abundance of outcomes, possibilities, or potential solutions, they can be in a state of overwhelm.  The experience of overwhelm can make it difficult to make a decision because the individual might be consumed with thinking about where all outcomes, possibilities, or potential solutions will lead.  Or, the vast number options is in itself overwhelming, making it hard to start the problem-solving process. 

How can therapy help?

The analysis paralysis experience can impact an individual in many ways:

  • The internal experience of the individual’s distressing emotions and thoughts.
  • The external impact on the individual’s personal, work, social, or academic life.
  • The problem that started the analysis paralysis process has not been solved.

Therapy can assist the individual with each of these components. Therapy assists clients in processing and working through their thoughts, overcoming distressing emotions, and problem-solving different challenges, so that they no longer negatively impact areas of life.

 

About the Author:  Robyn Tamanaha is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, writer, and podcaster. She has a private practice in Orange County, CA and is the host of the podcast Books Between Sessions.