Over Explaining All The Time? Caution: This May Be A Trauma Response!

Now, let's be honest: haven't we all been there? 

You open your inbox to an email with the subject line, "Hey, just checking in on that blog post!". Suddenly, your heart starts pumping as if it's going to squeeze out of your chest. Your mind goes into overdrive – "Oh no, did I forget all about it? Did they think I blew them off? On purpose? What if they think I’m being rude? Or lazy? Or rude and lazy? Should I explain myself?" Before you know it, you've drafted an extremely detailed account of your supremely hectic month (and yes, it’s a supremely hectic email).

This is how over-explaining feels. 

It hits you like a wave, this desperate need to justify yourself, even when a simple "hey, it will be ready in a day!" would have been sufficient. It’s all very chaotic.

Think about Phil Dunphy from Modern Family. Remember his elaborate explanations for, well, almost everything? From buying a giant gumball machine ("But Claire, it's a metaphor for life! Sometimes, you just gotta take a chance and see what pops out!") to accidentally (or maybe not so accidentally) dyeing his hair purple ("Okay, maybe I left the timer on a little too long, but hey, it's a bold new look! Like a grape drank a bottle of wine!"), Phil's justifications left us in splits. But while it can all seem rather hilarious on TV,  in real life, over-explaining can be a sign of something deeper (and much darker).

As I was writing this very blog post (yes, the irony is not lost on me), I fell victim to the classic procrastination cycle. Deadlines loomed, my to-do list mocked me from across the room, and yet, here I was researching 17th-century typography (because that's what happens when you avoid actual writing). When my editor (yes, editors are real, and yes, they deserve sainthood) sent a gentle email inquiry, my fingers flew across the keyboard, composing a symphony of excuses.

Only after his calming response ("Relax, I know you've been busy!") did I realise something: I felt the overwhelming need to justify myself, even when there was nothing to justify.

So, why do we do this? 

Here's the not-so-fun truth: over-explaining can be a symptom of past anxieties or even trauma. Imagine a childhood where every action required justification, or a situation where over-explaining felt like it was the only way to avoid a negative reaction. These experiences can leave a lasting impact, making you feel the need to constantly explain yourself to regain control, preempt rejection, or prove your worth. People-pleasing tendencies and internalized negativity can also play a role, as you strive for approval and compensate for insecurities. However, over-explaining isn't always rooted in negativity.  Highly conscientious individuals might do it to ensure they meet all expectations, while genuine enthusiasm can lead you to share more than necessary. 

The good news is, there's hope for us chronic over-explainers! Here are some tips to help you ditch the word vomit and express yourself with confidence:

  • Take a beat. Before you launch into a justification marathon, pause and assess the situation. Does this situation truly require a detailed explanation?
  • Focus on the key message. What is the most important thing you want to communicate? Keep it clear and concise. Repeat it till you believe it.
  • Be kind to yourself. You are worthy and capable, even if you don't have all the answers. Now go make the most of it.
Seek help if needed. If over-explaining is significantly impacting your life, consider talking to a therapist to address any underlying anxieties or trauma. That’s the first step.
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Meet the Author

Anagha Anand


Power, impact and efficiency drives Anagha. Her work in the field of mental health spans from her early college days working with individuals who have dealt and are dealing with trauma.

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