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When Is Rumination Excessive?

Lido Wellness Center Blog

When Does Rumination Require Therapy?

June 12, 2024

What is Rumination?

The dictionary says that ruminating is thinking deeply about things. The word comes from the way cows in a pasture continually and repetitively work on the grass they eat. In psychology, rumination describes a mental process of repeatedly thinking about the same thoughts or problems.

Some call it negative thinking or excessive rumination. But the result is the same: negative thoughts that circle and circle us, becoming a cycle of negativity affecting our lives and happiness.  At Lido Wellness, we also see it intertwining itself with myriad mental health issues and disorders.

So, when does rumination require therapy?

Real-life example

Imagine a mom who takes care of her kids during the day. She goes to the park, and one has a bit of a fit. After the park, the mom obsesses over it all day, even later that night. Maybe she felt she didn’t handle her child’s tantrum well. She begins questioning her parenting skills and feeling like the other parents were judging her.

At home, her partner knows she tends to be in a bad mood; she’s irritable and often gets into arguments, or there is tension in the house. And the thoughts of the tantrum continue over and over for days.

The Nature of Rumination

Repetitive thinking that we can’t control is typical of mental health issues. It is similar to what a person with anxiety experiences. The cycle can come from stress, unexpected situations, anxiety, or even trauma.

It’s important to understand that rumination, when it gets problematic, is different from just going over something that happened. It is healthy to be introspective. Considering our days and understanding our actions helps us grow. However, it becomes problematic when it leads to persistent negative thinking, affecting one’s overall mental health.

The Impact of Negative Thinking

What is the harm in overthinking and persistent negative thinking? The harm is to your happiness. And the joy of those around you. It chips away at your overall mental health, leaving you in a place where you might be susceptible to other issues you deal with.

Tragically, it distorts perceptions. Often, these thoughts are somewhat divorced from the situation. Something might have happened, but it wasn’t as bad as your mind and ruminations are telling you.

Along these lines, negative thinking breeds more of itself. You may begin to have a pessimistic outlook on life, yourself, and the world. This will affect your self-esteem and even your decision-making.

When Does Rumination Require Therapy?

The transition from general negative thinking to a more significant mental health disorder is often gradual. The steps may eventually lead to Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) or Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). These conditions are characterized by constant worry and despair, making daily functioning increasingly difficult.

How do we know if that is happening? Here are some potential indicators:

Incessant Replaying of Negative Events:

    • Continuously thinking about past mistakes, failures, or embarrassing moments without being able to move past them.

Persistent What-If Scenarios:

    • Constantly imagining worst-case scenarios or potential negative outcomes of future events.

Overanalyzing Conversations:

    • Frequently revisiting past conversations and worrying about things said or not said, often leading to self-criticism.

Difficulty Letting Go of Grudges:

    • Holding onto feelings of anger or resentment towards others, replaying the perceived wrongs repeatedly.

Excessive Self-Criticism:

    • Engaging in harsh self-judgment and blaming oneself for things beyond one’s control.

Perfectionistic Thinking:

    • Fixating on perceived imperfections in oneself or one’s work leads to chronic dissatisfaction.

Intrusive Negative Thoughts:

    • Experiencing unwanted and distressing thoughts that are hard to dismiss and frequently occupy the mind.

Sleep Disturbances Due to Overthinking:

    • Lying awake at night, unable to sleep because of repetitive and negative thoughts.

Physical Symptoms of Stress:

    • Experiencing headaches, muscle tension, or stomach issues as a result of chronic overthinking and stress.

Feeling Overwhelmed by Small Issues:

    • Becoming easily overwhelmed by minor problems or daily challenges due to relentless negative thinking.

Difficulty Focusing on the Present:

    • Struggling to stay present in the moment because the mind constantly dwells on the past or worries about the future.

Emotional Exhaustion:

    • Feeling emotionally drained and exhausted from the constant mental effort of dealing with negative thoughts.

Mood Swings and Irritability:

    • Experiencing mood swings or irritability due to being trapped in negative thought patterns.

Decline in Academic or Work Performance:

    • Noticing a decline in productivity or performance at school or work due to inability to focus or constant distraction by negative thoughts.

Recognizing When to Seek Help

It’s important to realize when professional help is necessary. If these thoughts lead to significant stress, as in the list above, interfere with daily life, or contribute to severe mental health issues, it’s time to reach out. The transition from negative thinking to disorders like MDD or GAD often requires therapeutic intervention to manage effectively.

The Role of Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)

At Lido Wellness Center, we understand the intricate nature of rumination and its impact on mental health. Our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is designed to provide comprehensive support to individuals struggling with these issues. Through a combination of individual therapy, group sessions, and holistic treatments, IOP offers a structured yet flexible approach to mental health care.

Call us today for more information about our program and how we can help: 949-541-8466.

Self-Help Strategies to Combat Rumination

Addressing rumination requires a multi-faceted approach. Here are some self-help strategies that can mitigate its impact:

  1. Mindfulness and Meditation: Practicing mindfulness helps one recognize one’s thought patterns without judgment. Meditation can create a space for mental calm, breaking the cycle of repetitive thinking.
  2. Cognitive Behavioral Techniques: Challenging negative thoughts and replacing them with more balanced perspectives can diminish the power of rumination.
  3. Physical Activity: Regular exercise is known to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, providing a healthy outlet for stress and improving overall mood.
  4. Engagement in Activities: Pursuing hobbies and interests can distract from negative thoughts, fostering a sense of achievement and joy.
  5. Journaling: Writing down thoughts can help organize and make sense of them, reducing their overwhelming nature.

Again, we are ready to discuss your options for counseling or outpatient treatment in Newport Beach, California. Call us today at 949-541-8466 to speak with a specialist.

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