13 Childhood Experiences That Can Lead to Overthinking and Anxiety 

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If you are experiencing anxiety and tend to overthink everything, the roots could be in your childhood. It is commonly acknowledged that childhood shapes our later years. For those struggling with overthinking and anxiety, some childhood experiences were recognized to be the causes of these unpleasant emotions. 

Childhood neglect

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Childhood emotional neglect happens when parents (caregivers) fail to give support and validation to the child. As grown-ups, neglected children tend to overreact, avoid negative emotions, have trust issues, overthink, and struggle with depression and anxiety. The overthinking comes from the need to control things, high self-doubt, and constant pressure to be accepted by others. 

Lack of affection

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Children who grew up with parents who did not provide affection tend to have self-esteem issues and see others as a threat. Their anxiety and need to overthink everything tend to come from feeling they did not deserve to be loved. A sense of insecurity also brings on anxiety. 



Researchers found that around 20 percent of bullied children experience mental health issues as adults. Victims of bullying have more severe anxiety symptoms and face higher risks of personality disorders. With shattered trust and self-esteem, overthinking comes with replaying past events, which worsens anxiety, and so on. This pattern is likely to be resolved through therapy. 

Unpredictable environment


One of the most common reasons for developing anxiety, including GAD or general anxiety disorder, lies in unpredictable environments during childhood and formative years. Being unable to rely on a parent makes a child develop a habit of overthinking to cope with the world. 

Substance abuse 

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Apart from unpredictability, living with a parent who is dealing with substance abuse comes with an additional layer of neglect, making things only more confusing and the outcome likely more concerning. The child starts overthinking to cope, as well as to find the cause, or how to help a parent. This all leads to heightened anxiety and future issues with romantic partners, isolation, and a sense of guilt.

Losing a parent 


Losing a parent or a caregiver can cause fear of dying to overtake a child’s life. Parental loss is linked to anxiety, PTSD, depression, and fear of future losses, which sparks up more anxiety and overthinking. Denial and, disbelief, anger also follow parental loss, and then, if not monitored, the grieving process can take over one’s life. 

High expectations

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Parents who present unrealistic challenges to their children are setting them up for a life of pressure, followed by fear of failure. This fear pushes a child or an adult into the circle of overthinking and anxiety over potential shortcomings. Children already put enough pressure on themselves, and overly demanding expectations from parents can only lead to avoidance, low self-esteem, and further mental health issues. 

Hostile environment

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Parents who repeatedly argue can raise troubled, worried, anxious, and hopeless children. Shouting and screaming increase worry, so the already anxious child is exposed to even more stress. Children are highly perceptive, so even if parents try to hide their hatred for each other, they cannot hide their hostility completely. Since children cannot understand adults’ problems, this leads to a circle of anxiety and overthinking. 

Parents who overly criticize 


Parents who are obsessed with their idea of success or want to relive their lives through their children often use too much criticism, which can only cause them to become fearful and anxious. Anxiety causes overthinking, but these thoughts are frequently misleading and even harmful. 

Emotional invalidation 


Lack of emotional validation can negatively affect one’s self-perception, identity, and relationships. Without learning to correctly identify and express emotions, children who grow up without emotional support are prone to overthinking, anxiety, and prolonged feelings of anger, shame, guilt, and worthlessness. 


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This term is broad and covers many of the topics mentioned, as well as any other behavior deliberately harmful to the child. Abuse can lead to trauma, and overthinking is a typical trauma response. Abuse in a household can lead to similar symptoms, even if the child is not the one experiencing it personally. 



Children who grew up in poverty are three times more likely to develop psychiatric conditions, including anxiety, depression, and inadequate coping skills. Overthinking offers a coping mechanism that is not healthy, but it can be soothing for a child in distress. 



Intimidation means pressuring children into doing something they usually wouldn’t do by scaring them into it. The child believes they must do something to protect themselves, another parent, sibling, or anyone they are close to. In response, the child is anxious and has poor social functions. Overthinking is there to try to understand and cope with the trauma brought on by intimidating parent or parents. 

Kate Smith, a self-proclaimed word nerd who relishes the power of language to inform, entertain, and inspire. Kate's passion for sharing knowledge and sparking meaningful conversations fuels her every word.