Deep Thinkers and Overthinkers: What's the Difference?

Are you an over thinker or a deep thinker? There's a clear difference between one approach and another. In fact, your psychological well-being depends on you practicing just one of them. We reveal which it is.
Deep Thinkers and Overthinkers: What's the Difference?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Deep thinkers and overthinkers: is there a difference between these two types of thinking? The answer is yes, quite a lot, in fact. However, most of us frequently oscillate between the two. In fact, our thinking mind is like a factory that never closes. Furthermore, it often doesn’t work in the most optimal and efficient way.

You spend a lot of time inside your own head. For example, you think about what you did yesterday, today, and what you’ll do tomorrow. You get lost in the labyrinths of the decisions you need to make, in the dreams you want to achieve, and even in the useless kinds of thoughts that have no meaning at all.

Almost without realizing it, you fall into the excessive ruminant cognitive approach. This exhausts and frustrates you, wastes your time, and gets you nowhere. What’s worse, it intensifies your psychological discomfort.

Therefore, how can you cultivate a healthier and more beneficial mental approach to your journey through life? Let’s take a look.

“Intelligence is not only the ability to reason; it is also the ability to find relevant material in memory and to deploy attention when needed.”

-Daniel Kahneman-

Neural connections of a woman's brain symbolizing deep thinkers and excessive thinkers
Mental well-being depends on our ability to practice slower, deeper thinking.

Deep thinkers and overthinkers

Thinking deeply allows you to better calibrate your compass and make the most suitable decisions. On the other hand, overthinking leaves you in the same place as you were and drains you mentally. Therefore, it’s obvious that the healthiest and most adequate cognitive strategy is the one related to deep, slow, deliberate, and analytical thinking.

However, and here comes the problem, you don’t use it as much as you should. In fact, you have a tendency to analyze and respond to most situations with a quick, intuitive, and subconscious mental approach. That’s because life goes extremely fast and you need to act quickly in the face of every stimulus.

When a challenge or problem arises, you get stuck. That’s when your rumination machine turns on, the one that turns things over a thousand times, regurgitates them, and then chews them again. It isn’t easy to apply a more reflective and economical mental perspective, knowing when to slow down and to stop reinforcing those irrational and unhelpful ideas.

We’re all both deep thinkers and overthinkers at times. However, we need to promote the former and control the latter. Let’s see how.

Thinking too much makes you sick

We’ve all had to deal with difficult experiences. At these times, it’s really difficult to stop thinking about certain things. In fact, no one is exempt from being an excessive thinker on these kinds of occasions. That’s because negatively valenced emotions intensify this tendency.

Dr. Susan Nolen Hoeksema was one of the great experts in the field of rumination. In one of her studies, she claimed that excessive thinking often leads to depression.

It’s also often the trigger for eating disorders (ED) and other mental health problems. So, how can it be avoided?  Here’s some advice:

  • Be aware that overthinking and ruminating don’t solve problems.
  • Stop fighting your thoughts. If you repress them, they speak louder. Accept them, give them space, but not any value. They’re there and you can’t hide from them or deny them, but they’re just noise, they’re not useful.
  • Try not to think about things so much. Select only your useful thoughts and ideas. Discard those that only bring you anxiety and worries.
  • Deep thinkers and overthinkers differ in one respect. The former think to achieve something, the latter to worsen their mood.

Thinking deeply or deliberately

The deep thinker is one who reasons and qualitatively analyzes different variables, obtains valuable conclusions, and acts on the problems that surround them. They have a skillful mind to make contact with their emotions and regulate them, connect with their own needs, and establish various responses to the same problem.

What differentiates between a deep thinker and an overthinker? What strategies should you develop to promote the first, healthier approach? These are the keys:

  • Practice self-reflection and problem-solving.
  • Analyze your own thought patterns to assess whether they’re useful or not.
  • Focus your mind on the here and now. Yesterday doesn’t matter anymore, tomorrow doesn’t exist yet.
  • Manage your emotions and don’t block yourself with obsessions, fears, and irrational thoughts.
  • Try and be optimistic and recognize that there are several ways of solving any problem.
  • Talk with other people to obtain different perspectives. This helps you relativize your problems, broaden your focus, and reduce stress.
Woman silhouette representing deep thinkers and excessive thinkers
The deep thinker knows how to regulate their emotions to make use of a more rational approach.

Deep Thinkers and Overthinkers: Which One Are You?

Most of us think too much. We do it because our brains have an almost innate tendency to focus on the negative, in the form of problems and threats from our environment. Our brains don’t care if we’re happy or not, they just want us to survive and, consequently, urge us to worry almost continuously. However, worrying too much isn’t the answer.

Faced with these types of almost instinctive mechanisms, there’s only one option: to develop a more conscious and rational approach. You have to think better, more slowly and deliberately, with greater meaning and purpose, drawing up plans and devising ten solutions to every challenge.

This requires daily commitment and effort, but doing so will certainly be worth it. Indeed, you must take care of what happens in your mind because everything that happens there determines your life.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Nolen-Hoeksema, S., Wisco, B. E., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). Rethinking Rumination. Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science3(5), 400–424.
  • Yaribeygi, H., Panahi, Y., Sahraei, H., Johnston, T. P., & Sahebkar, A. (2017). The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI journal16, 1057.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.