Overreaction and Irrationality

For those who know me or have been following me for a while, this won’t be anything new, but for those who don’t know me or have only just started reading; I’ve been fighting with anxiety for a very long time.

I use the term fighting over suffering as I refuse to let it control my life completely and currently, I am winning.

One thing that has become commonplace during my lifetime, is my tendency to give an overreaction. Much like hypochondria, this isn’t just something done out of being daft or an excuse, it’s a genuine part of mental health and should not be overlooked.

Normally I would feel something like this wouldn’t warrant a whole blog post, but there have been a few instances lately where the “worst parts” as you’ll see, have come into effect. As such I felt the need to explain what happens, how people usually react and how you should actually react when someone struggles to rationalise.

Overreacting to Worries

An overreaction is exactly what it says on tin, but deserves none of the negative connotation that comes with it. When it’s in children and some immature adults, an overreaction may be a tantrum, a diva moment or something like that. What this is about, it overreacting regarding worries or fears.

Rather than logically react, the brain enters fight or flight mode immediately and it can be hard to get out of it, hard to rationalise.

Of course this isn’t a clinical explanation so please read more into it yourselves, but this is the gist I’ve gotten when speaking to my psychotherapist.

Let’s use a real life example. When I was a kid, I played for a football team. I got into an incident where I had my hands in my pockets, slipped, landed on my chin in the street and had my chin almost come out of my face (yes, that happened).

Now what would be regarded as a normal reaction heading back into being able to play, would be to go okay, I’m healed and ready to go, let’s carry on as normal.

Alas no, as I legitimately became scared of the ball hitting me in the face, hurting me and possibly opening my chin again.

I was stitched up and healed, I was the goalkeeper of the team who could use my hands to stop it, and yet I could not rationalise and overcome.

This inability to work it out in my head and calm myself down has followed me everywhere, my whole life and even as an adult.

The Worst Parts

One of the worst parts about it is knowing these reactions don’t make sense and that I’ll be fine, but the other side of me saying no this is bad and you should worry. The other worst part about it, is other people’s reactions to my reactions.

“You’ll be fine”, “stop moaning”, “get over it”, “it’s not that bad” and the list goes on. Not only do I now have this thing that I’m worrying about, but I now feel completely invalidated and I’m wondering what is wrong with me to be feeling the way I am.

Another example; as a teenager I had growing pains in my knees. Apparently from doing sports or something, my quads were a little weak and had caused my knees to shift a bit.

No major deal, just some strengthening exercises needed and all will be well. Instead, this led to years of anxiety and overreaction.

Why the reaction? Well in hindsight, this was the worst pain I’d ever felt. I didn’t know pain like this as a kid, so I was distraught.

I thought I’d lose the ability to walk, I wore knee supports which made things worse. Yes my knees were sore and I needed to make them stronger, but my mental health amplified how everything felt.

Now I was no longer dealing with sore knees, I was having days where I had to sit down every few yards because I couldn’t walk.

I didn’t fully know about health anxiety or mental health at that point, so to me this was all real pain. To be fair, it still was real pain. Anything you feel is real.

What followed here, were more instances of being told I was fine, or that it was me being melodramatic. Great, real helpful, thank you.

I know it’ll come across as me being weak, some may think I should man up. Maybe I shouldn’t let it hurt my feelings, but then again maybe you should understand you’re telling someone who has struggled with this self awareness and inability to rationalise so much they considered ending their life, that it’s not a big deal.

How to Help Someone Who Can’t Rationalise

I don’t want to feel this way, I don’t enjoy it in the slightest. You telling me to get over it is not going to make it magically go away. Instead, try showing some empathy. Talk to me in a calm manner, understand where I am at.

Get me to talk through why I feel this way, explain anything that doesn’t add up and maybe if I start to come around encourage me to do whatever it is I was going to do, or to focus on something else that can distract me.

In those moments we don’t need negativity or invalidation. We want someone to establish whether or not the threat or risk is as great as the mind has interpreted it. That is all.

I strongly encourage everyone to try handling it this way next time you see someone who you think is panicking or overreacting, whether it be obvious in their mannerisms or a slight comment (not everyone outwardly expresses and can be panicking internally). I am sure your efforts will be greatly appreciated by them for doing so.

Post by Michael Sallabank