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Racing Mind: What it is and why you have one.

Copyright: <a href="">nexusplexus / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

August 18th, 2020

Description/Introduction:  A racing mind feels like your thoughts flit quickly from one thing to another without your control. A result of stress, fatigue, medication, mental illness, or ADHD, a racing mind hinders productivity and fosters frustration, fatigue, and stress. 

The creative human resources manager of a small computer company, Keith, usually has more ideas than he can reasonably carry out in a brief period. Before he finishes one task, he thinks of the next. He moves fast, joking all the while, but with his racing mind, he forgets appointments, worries about missing reports, and makes mistakes due to inattention.

What is a racing mind? 

Imagine a car racing around a track, except it is your thoughts rushing around your mind. Sometimes, the thoughts may be exciting, creative ideas. For example, developing a new project, you can’t stop generating ideas and options. This overstimulation occurs once in a while, and it doesn’t last for too long. Other times, thoughts or worries continuously flit in and out of your awareness, and focusing on one idea seems impossible.  There are different kinds of racing minds, and the rushing of thoughts may differ in frequency, intensity, and duration.  

Racing thoughts may feel like a dull background, or they may crowd out any conscious thinking. Rather than racing thoughts, you may have bits of music, voices, or visions flying through your mind as you try to focus. Too often, this results in agitation and frustration.  

Are there different types of racing minds? 

Keith exemplifies one type of racing mind. He has so many ideas racing through his mind that he fails to think ahead. His thoughts scattered, he acts more on impulse than on logic. Keith’s racing mind is related to an inability to monitor or control attention. Keith has several symptoms related to ADHD, a diagnosed clinical difficulty in monitoring and controlling attention, or distractions. 

Doris illustrates a different type of racing mind. Prone to worrying, Doris’s negative thoughts interrupt a thoughtful flow of ideas. She may begin a task but have intrusive thoughts about what’s wrong and how things may go awry. Her stressful thoughts trigger a racing mind and disallow the completion of tasks. 

Nick has a history of emotional problems. He is on several medications for bipolar disorder, and his racing mind involves flights of thought that are difficult to predict or manage.

Another type of racing mind results from situations involving undue stress or worry. The continuous and rapid stream of concern precludes the analysis of problems or solid judgment. You catastrophize events, think they will last forever, and freeze rather than thinking things through. 

What are racing thoughts a sign of?

There is no one cause of a racing mind. Undue stress, inadequate sleep, some medications, ADHD, or emotional disorders cause racing thoughts.

Most often, a racing mind is a byproduct of stress or unbridled creativity. Happening infrequently, it can be annoying, but most people manage to slow down, cool off, and move on.

Also, racing thoughts can be a sign of being overscheduled and overwhelmed. Too much to do in too little time, coupled with unrealistic goals, tends to get you worked up, stressed, and unable to focus on top priority tasks.

Less commonly, racing thoughts may be a symptom of Bipolar Disorder (

In such cases, people experience extreme emotional highs and lows. The racing thoughts show up during the up times. Also, racing thoughts are associated with periodic anxiety or of a General Anxiety Disorder (,) or ADHD (

What is the impact of a racing mind?

A racing mind sabotages performance in a variety of ways. When thoughts are dashing from one idea to another, you experience slower task completion, poor accuracy, and increased frustration and fatigue. Also, you more apt to procrastinate starting tasks that are tedious or uninteresting.

Is having racing thoughts normal?

Most people have experienced times when they were flooded with random thoughts or worries. Such experiences occur as a result of stress, uncertainty, or unexpected events and fall within the normal expectations of adult life. However, if a racing mind is a persistent factor that interferes with work/life productivity, check with a medical or mental health professional

Are racing thoughts a symptom of ADHD?

A common sign of ADHD is a racing mind. Adults with ADHD feel restless and report having scattered thoughts.  For example, Victor describes his feelings this way: I just can’t get my arms around all my thoughts and things I have to do.” Summing up his situation, he says, “My mind is like a Lamborghini, but I have a Volkswagen transmission.“ Those with ADHD and a racing mind may hear comments such as “You’re talking a mile a minute and jumping from topic to topic. 

Racing mind? You have greater control than you think.

Although a racing mind occurs at times for most people, it causes frustration, stress, and poor performance. Keep in mind that thoughts come and go, and you can exert greater control when thoughts are cascading. First, jot down the frequency of such events. Second, assess how a racing mind hinders your productivity. Third, gather information about strategies to reduce or avoid a racing mind. Fourth, if your work/life function is suffering, reach out to an expert for a helping hand.

For more tips and strategies to slow down a racing mind and increase productivity, go to ( or contact

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