Known as the “never ending story”, rumination involves repetitively going over a thought of problem without completion. Most of these stories are about feelings of worthlessness, anger, shame, regret, guilt, sadness, and more. To gain “new insight”, people who ruminate often focus on past mistakes and hurts, causing them to forfeit success and mindfulness in the present. Rumination has been linked to depression, and has been shown to make depressive symptoms worse.
The American Psychological Association (APA) states that individuals engage in rumination for a number of reasons: 1) in an attempt to gain insight from it; 2) because the person has a history of trauma; 3) because the person believes they face chronic, uncontrollable stressors; and/or 4) because the individual has personality characteristics such as perfectionism, neuroticism, and an excessive relational focus, described on the APA’s website as “a tendency to so overvalue your relationships with others that you will sacrifice yourself to maintain them, no matter what the cost.”
Rumination harms a person’s ability to make effective decision making, which further exacerbates the symptoms of their depression. In addition, many people who ruminate lose their social support because loved ones may become discouraged or frustrated when they hear the same concerns repeatedly. As you can see, the negative effects of rumination can leave depression cycling over again, and the person is still not able to improve. Thankfully, there are many ways that a person can work to break this cycle:
- Using friends or family members to help remember times when things went well.
- When in the middle of rumination, looking at pictures that made you happy and recalling the feelings associated with that memory.
- Listening to positive, energetic music
- Distracting yourself by cleaning, talking to friends, watching a movie, etc.
- Questioning the validity of these thoughts and assessing their accuracy
- Letting go of unattainable, perfectionistic goals
- Development of self-esteem
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that working on your recovery and focusing on the positives will help you to break this harmful cycle. Rumination can become a habit, which is hard to break if steps are taken – but it is possible. Recovery is open to you, if you work every day towards it. Begin using some of the tools listed above today, and seek help- it does get better.
New Vista Behavioral Health is home to several world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery treatment programs. If you or your loved one is ready to begin treatment, call us today at 888-316-3665 for a consultation.