Tired of ruminating?
Rumination: How Obsessive Thinking Impacts Depression And Anxiety
What is Rumination?
Merriam-Webster defines rumination as “obsessive thought about an idea, situation, or choice, particularly when it interferes with normal mental functioning.” Ruminate is derived from the Latin word for chewing cud, which is what cows do while eating. Human rumination, as opposed to the repetitive motion of digesting that cows engage in, refers to compulsively thinking about a situation.
Rumination is a behavior, not a mental health condition. However, it is a common symptom of anxiety and mood disorders. However, it does not have to be permanent. You can learn to deal with it.
Examples of how rumination looks like
We can look into certain examples of rumination and how it looks in real life. Research has stated that when you face negative life events, including in areas like academics, work-related issues, interpersonal communication, vocational development, and social adjustment issues, you are more likely to experience depression. You cannot escape the effect of past negative events and repeatedly think, “Why did these things happen to me?” or “How sad do I feel”, worrying about a test coming up or remembering a significant conversation. Considering a significant event or situation that happened in the past and not being able to put a stop to it
Causes of Ruminating
The American Psychological Association explains rumination as an act of repetitive thinking or dwelling on negative feelings and distress and their causes and consequences. The repetitive, negative aspect of rumination can contribute to the development of depression or anxiety and worsen existing conditions.
- Ruminating is common in people with certain personality traits, such as perfectionism, neuroticism, and overly focused attention on one’s relationships with others.
- You believe that you will gain insight through ruminating.
- You have had a history of trauma.
- You perceive that you have faced chronic, uncontrollable, and ongoing stressors.
- You may tend to overvalue your relationships with others to the point where you’ll make significant personal sacrifices to preserve them, even if they’re not putting enough effort into them.
Difference between Rumination and Intrusive thoughts
The main difference between intrusive thoughts and ruminations, according to OCD-UK, is that intrusive thoughts are usually disturbing, and the person often tries to resist them, whereas ruminations often feel interesting, even indulgent, at first. However, ruminations rarely result in action or new insights. Intrusive thoughts can also make you feel ego-dystonic, or disconnected from yourself. Ruminations are more ego-synthetic or feel like they are part of your own mind.
Rumination and Co-occurring disorders (How does rumination lead to depression and anxiety?)
Sometimes rumination can be confused with obsessive behaviour. However, it is important to realise that when you ruminate, it is an act of compulsion. You may find yourself ruminating on past events in your life, trying to uncover new perspectives on what happened, pointing out details with the hope of changing them.
Oftentimes, it is noticed that rumination can co-exist with other mental health disorders as it is a common symptom for most of them. Including, mental illnesses such as OCD, depression, Anxiety, Postpartum Depression, and Post-traumatic disorder (PTSD). Furthermore, ruminators are four times more likely than non-ruminators to develop major depression, according to a community survey by Nolen-Hoeksema, it was found that: Many ruminators remain depressed because their negative outlook impairs their problem-solving abilities.
Don’t let rumination spoil your mental health.
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Treatment for Rumination
The first step towards seeking help is to recognize the patterns or address the dysregulation felt in one’s day-to-day life that keeps you stuck in one place. Afterward, going to regular sessions is the next step, even if there is a lack of motivation that requires one to summon the guts to go to therapy. Asking someone close to you and someone whom you trust is another step that would help you to stay consistent and accountable to yourself and determine a smooth recovery in the long run.
Among the treatment options are:
- In-person or online: Therapy becomes your safe space to be vulnerable and have someone hold your hand during that vulnerability, walking with you to emerge out of the rabbit hole.
- Psychotherapy & Meditation Yoga: Different modules of therapy are focused on unraveling the roots of your thoughts. Such as Mindfulness-based therapies, Cognitive behavioral therapies, and the like, to name a few.
- Walking: Walking provides an outlet and distraction from a pressing thought, and it is also the simplest and quickest way to get there.
- Medication for underlying issues such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse can lead one to engage in looping behavior.
- Lifestyle Changes: Working towards breaking free from a pattern challenge one to face the difficulties of life and move past them once momentum is established. You must be proactive in trying to solve your problems, set your own expectations and boundaries, and create a support system.
- Quieting your inner critic: Self-compassion and forgiveness would allow you to set yourself free from the ruminating thoughts that are negatively impacting you.
- Considering the possibilities: Instead of focusing on what you don’t want, make an effort to identify what you do want in your life. Relationships, jobs, hobbies, and places to visit are all examples.
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