young adult women talking and one of the women is overthinking social interactions

Overthinking Social Interactions: What You Can Do to Stop It

Overthinking social interactions will have you replaying past conversations and social experiences you’ve had. This often looks like evaluating your performance and overanalyzing the details surrounding the social interaction. Even when it is no longer necessary and the situation is long gone, somehow, the overthinking continues to happen.

For many people, overthinking after social interactions happens frequently and causes stress, feelings of disappointment, self-criticism and harsh judgment. It makes socializing uncomfortable and creates anxiety and uneasiness in most social circumstances.

Why Do Social Interactions Give Anxiety?

Part of the human experience is having an emotional need to feel a sense of belonging. Most people want to be liked, loved, feel accepted and fit in with a group. We spend a lot of time doing things to create, nurture, and sustain relationships in our lives. 

When you are overthinking after social interactions, you are essentially trying to work out a way to feel successful in your social life. You care about how others perceive you to be and the impression you give to them. 

You may go over the social situation several times in your mind to make sure you acted in a way that is acceptable. And also meets a certain expectation or preset standard of behavior. For example, not wanting to say something foolish or appear unprepared in front of your boss is common and relatable. 

You may rehearse the situation until you find clues and determine that this did or did not occur. Many times, this can lead to anxiety. Especially, if after reviewing your performance, you judge yourself to not have met a certain standard that you approve of.

For example, maybe you judge your outfit, body posture, the way you said something, or the way you did not say something. Was your joke taken the right way? Did you come across as interesting and personable? Were you too quiet or too talkative?

Before you know it, the mind is running wild with many thoughts and interpretations. Some of which can be overwhelming. This is just one way overthinking social interactions can create anxiety.

For many people, the anxiety is short-lived, doesn’t interrupt their life and only occurs in very important circumstances. For example, meeting their significant other’s family members for the first time. 

And other times, social anxiety disorder is the contributing cause.

Social Anxiety Overthinking Conversations

Social anxiety or social phobia is a common anxiety disorder that causes people to experience anxiety during social interactions. The anxiety is experienced as intense, persistent, and leads to avoidance of everyday type social situations.

Social anxiety symptoms include fear of negative evaluation, fear of criticism, humiliation, and being judged by others. This can make you feel self-conscious and lead to overthinking after social interactions.

young adult asian woman sitting at desk with social anxiety overthinking conversations

Because there is a fear of being negatively judged or embarrassed, the brain becomes overly concerned and analytical about this. So, you rehearse and overthink the social event in your mind.

You are looking for and hoping that you didn’t act in ways that could lead to embarrassment, criticism or rejection.

Social anxiety disorder is caused by many interrelated factors of both biological and environmental origin.

Having a history of anxiety in the family and/or history of negative social experiences contribute to developing social anxiety.

For example, teasing, bullying, history of abuse, lack of positive socialization experiences, exposure to overly-criticizing parenting styles, and trauma. These experiences may have occurred in childhood and have the potential to continue to have great impact into adulthood. If not treated, social anxiety can last for many years and in some cases can be lifelong. 

For this reason, recognizing and understanding social anxiety symptoms can help to start the healing process. Social anxiety counseling is also available and is an effective treatment option. With support, you can gain the confidence to put yourself out there and actually enjoy social events.

How to Stop Overthinking Social Interactions

There are also a few things you can do on your own to reduce social anxiety overthinking conversations.

Change Unhelpful Thinking Patterns

Adjusting your mindset is a powerful way to reduce the pattern of overthinking social interactions. There are a few common and unhelpful thought patterns that the mind can fall into time and time again.

Be mindful and practice awareness of when the mind uses these thinking traps and patterns. When you recognize them, you can choose to readjust and reset your thought process. This will assist you in getting unstuck from unpleasant rumination and self-criticism. 


Means to view or make a situation seem bigger or worse than it actually is. It is probably one of the most common thinking traps. When you are worrying and overthinking about a past social performance, ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen really?” For example, is it true that you will lose all of your friends because you declined that party invitation? 

When stuck in a pattern of rumination and overthinking, it may certainly feel like it!! But, allow yourself to consider other options here. It’s usually very unlikely that the worst case scenario will actually happen. More often than not, a more moderate and less threatening version of the catastrophe will occur.


Drawing conclusions from a past experience and applying it to all future experiences. For example, feeling humiliated in front of classmates after you gave a wrong answer in class. If this was very painful and activated feelings of shame, you may believe that this will happen every time you provide a wrong response.

You might then engage in overthinking after social interactions in which you needed to provide an answer to something. Overgeneralization thought patterns will activate your fears that humiliation will occur again. However, this is not necessarily true. Not everyone will react to you in the same way and not every wrong response will lead to embarrassment.

Therefore, be mindful not to rely too much on past memories of complicated social interactions. Especially those in which you were humiliated, shamed, or made to feel less confident. One unsuccessful social event does not mean that all is doomed.

Mental Filters

Filtering out information that tends to align with the negative aspects of something. In many cases, the positives are filtered out completely and not taken into consideration. This can look like focusing too much on what you believe went wrong in the social interaction. 

young adult woman sitting on grass overthinking after social interactions

For example, imagine running into an old friend at the dog park. It is a pleasant encounter but you keep replaying the conversation and conclude that you were awkward.

You feel embarrassed that you confused their child’s name for someone else’s. You think that surely they will be upset with you.

Since you are focusing on it, you may think that this is what people pay attention to also. But, even if you were awkward or said something boring, it doesn’t mean that other people think this too. Or that they will remember it as much as you. Or that they will go home judging you. 

In fact, fact, your old friend may just have been happy to see you and nothing else. Mental filters thinking process makes it so that you forget the good parts. 

Be mindful when you are filtering and only remembering negative information. Try to highlight the positives as well. Keep in mind that we can be our own worst-critic and harsher on ourselves than anyone else.

Jumping to Conclusions and Mind Reading

Believing that you can determine what someone else is thinking about. It is true that we can draw some inferences and interpretations based on things we witness. However, we never know with full certainty what someone else is thinking. 

If you are overthinking social interactions, you may be jumping to conclusions about what other people think about you. And more likely than not, the conclusion is a negative one. It is rare that you are imagining and overthinking a situation in which you came out looking and feeling amazing. 

Take a pause when you are jumping to conclusions and conjuring up negative thoughts about yourself and your behavior. More likely than not, you did not come out looking awful. Reframe your mindset to something more positive. Positive thoughts will help reduce worrying.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Other People

red stop sign used as symbol to stop overanalyzing social interactions

Continually comparing your actions to others’ is a surefire path to feeling less than adequate. There are no rules that you need to be like anyone else or better than anyone else for that matter.

But, sometimes you might feel like you do. This is when overthinking social interactions starts to take over.

The truth is that we are all human and have uncomfortable moments at times. Nobody is perfect and that includes the people you compare yourself to. You possess unique and beautiful qualities as well. Focus on the qualities you like about yourself and remember that you are enough. Just as you are.

Practice Flexibility

Being narrowly focused on achieving a certain social standard leads to more self-doubt and self-criticism. For example, some people with social anxiety tend to hide certain aspects of their personality for fear of negative evaluation. There is much energy expended on looking a certain way.

But, having a balanced perspective will help mitigate stress and worry from social anxiety. Practice being flexible and open to showing all parts of who you are. Do this even if it means risking not being liked or judged.

In addition, you can practice flexibility in the way you handle disappointment and social difficulties. For example, choosing to utilize positive coping skills and social skills rather than giving up on yourself.

Change Avoidance Patterns

Avoiding social situations and social events is a strategy that only temporarily reduce stress in the moment. But, in the long run, avoidance becomes a maladaptive pattern that maintains fear of socializing.

Some common examples of avoidance behaviors in social anxiety are:

  • staying quiet and not speaking in front of others
  • not eating in front of others
  • declining social invitations
  • being agreeable to avoid expressing a differing opinion
  • not using the restroom when others are present
  • choosing not to participate in group conversations or events
  • passing on opportunities for small talk and meeting new people

Avoidance is not a helpful because it reduces the opportunities needed for you to have positive and successful social experiences. Without having positive experiences to rely on, your mind focuses more on the negative thoughts and feelings from previous experiences. 

This leads to more replaying and overthinking after social interactions simply because you may not be having enough of them. Having positive interactions where you have not experienced worst case scenarios or suffered criticism and humiliation are important.

They help you to build confidence and remind you that there is nothing wrong with you. You have the potential to have a pleasant social life. But, social opportunities are needed for this to happen. 

To begin changing avoidance patterns, start slow and small. Start by being mindful of when you are avoiding socializing because of anxiety. Then, make a small effort to engage socially rather than disengage. For example, make eye contact and smile with someone. Or try to eat your lunch with coworkers instead of by yourself.

Start with a social activity that produces low anxiety. Then make your way up to trying something that activates moderate anxiety. The less you avoid, the more confident you will feel overtime. 

Be Kind to Yourself When Overthinking Social Interactions

Practice Self-Compassion

As mentioned prior, constantly overthinking after social interactions is exhausting and is accompanied with feelings of shame and self-criticism. If you find that you are berating and punishing yourself for not meeting a social standard, consider practicing kindness instead. 

Practicing self-compassion is a coping strategy that can help you deal with anxiety and pain in a beneficial way. Rather than blaming yourself for your social anxiety, forgive yourself. Know that you are not alone in feeling this way. Remember that all humans have a desire to be loved and accepted.

Be mindful of when you need a little bit more self-love and care. Offering this to yourself is a powerful act of self-compassion that can support you when you are feeling low. 

Let It Go: You Did Your Best

Give yourself grace and leniency not to be perfect. If the situation didn’t turn out as you would have hoped, don’t continue to overthink and overanalyze. Try just letting it go.

Believe that you did your best given the circumstances. Practice acceptance and move on. Maintain hope and focus on better days ahead. 

Counseling for Social Anxiety

Counseling can effectively treat and help you manage social anxiety symptoms. As an anxiety therapist in Rockland County NY, I provide counseling to New York State residents and help you gain the tools to start feeling better. Schedule an appointment to start anxiety counseling or learn more.

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