What is Rumination?

Ruminasyon Nedir

Rumination refers to the process of constantly thinking about negative emotions and thoughts related to a stressful or bad event. The term “rumination” is derived from the Latin word “rumen,” which signifies the large first compartment of the stomach in ruminant animals. Therefore, rumination can be described as a mental process akin to chewing cud or repeatedly going over thoughts.

Ruminating involves frequently thinking about past negative events, repeating conversations, and can also extend to obsessively thinking about future events and feeling excessive worry.

“Rumination” and “Rumination Disorder” are used to describe two different conditions. Rumination disorder is an eating disorder that involves bringing food back up to the mouth and re-swallowing after it has been swallowed. In the field of psychology, the question “What is rumination?” is related to the mental process of chewing over thoughts.

Various studies have been conducted in the field of psychology regarding the concept of rumination, providing different answers to the question “What is rumination?”

.In cognitive terms, rumination is a process where negative memories are frequently replayed.

.In cases where external factors forming thoughts in rumination are absent, individuals get stuck in a ruminative thought cycle that is difficult to stop.

.Rumination is often defined as being stuck in a passive thought process, involving dwelling on past events, repeatedly thinking about potential solutions to existing problems, but being unable to take action. Different forms of rumination exist:

  1. Involuntary Rumination In involuntary rumination, individuals do not choose to think about past experiences and negative events. Thoughts arise spontaneously.
  2. Voluntary Rumination In voluntary rumination, individuals intentionally choose to think about events and their causes or consequences. There is a conscious effort to understand the reasons behind events.

Symptoms of Rumination:

Rumination symptoms can manifest in individuals through certain indicators in their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.

Sudden changes in mood are observed during rumination. Additionally, various emotions and thoughts are considered symptoms of rumination:

  • Decrease in feelings of pleasure
  • Unhappiness and/or irritability
  • Feeling of worthlessness
  • Feeling hopeless and having suicidal thoughts

Rumination symptoms affecting daily life due to the frequent thinking and/or talking about a stressful or bad event include:

  • Problems with concentration
  • Decreased interest in enjoyable activities
  • Eating disorders
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Lack of energy

Causes of Rumination: Various reasons can underlie the obsessive thinking about negative experiences, feelings, and existing problems, constituting the causes of rumination. Among the reasons for rumination are personality traits, mental state, past events, or external factors:

  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Perfectionism
  • Tendency to overthink
  • Feeling a lack of control over events
  • Traumas
  • Negative experiences
  • Factors causing stress (social problems, economic issues, relationships, work life)
  • Low sleep quality

Additionally, rumination can be a symptom of various psychiatric disorders, such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Phobias

Health Effects of Rumination:

The effects of rumination are particularly evident on mental health. The frequent repetition of negative thoughts can lead to the development of depression. Additionally, sleep disorders, loss of appetite, and concentration problems are factors that reduce the quality of life, constituting the health effects of rumination.

Development of Depression, Stress, and Anxiety:

Some studies suggest that the frequent thinking and ruminative thinking about traumatic events in childhood can affect the development of depression. In other words, the constant presence of negative thoughts and emotions related to past events leads to the existence of negative cognitions, which is one of the negative effects of rumination on psychological health. 

Decrease in Sleep Quality:

Rumination negatively affects sleep quality. Thinking about past events and negative situations reduces sleep quality. Especially, the presence of ruminative thoughts during the transition to sleep affects the process of falling asleep and reduces sleep quality.

Deterioration in Quality of Life:

Along with ruminative thoughts, individuals may experience a loss of energy, changes in appetite, and problems with concentration, reducing their overall quality of life. Work performance, school performance, and relationships can be negatively affected.

Coping Strategies for Rumination:

There are various methods to stop rumination. Coping strategies generally focus on breaking the ruminative thought cycle. Strategies for coping with rumination include:

Focusing on Problem-Solving:

Concentrating on solving the problem rather than ruminating on thoughts can be crucial. Coping strategies should focus on problem-solving based on the individual’s emotional state. Since emotional states vary, coping strategies for ruminative thoughts may also differ.

Putting Thoughts on Paper:

Writing down thoughts or events can be one of the strategies to break the ruminative thought cycle.

Meditating and Staying in the Present Moment:

Staying in the present moment reduces the focus on past experiences and negative feelings. It also helps reduce worries about the uncertainty of future events. Therefore, trying to stay in the present moment helps to distance oneself from the ruminative cycle.

One coping strategy for dealing with rumination is to engage in meditation-related activities. Meditation and relaxing exercises have a healing effect on both physical and mental health.

Replacing Negative Thoughts with Positive Ones:

Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones is a process that requires effort. The brain has difficulty giving up its accustomed way of thinking. However, with repetition and effort, it may be possible to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

Engaging in Enjoyable Activities:

Frequently repeating negative thoughts and reliving past experiences in a passive cognitive process perpetuates the rumination cycle. Therefore, focusing on enjoyable activities is one of the coping strategies for dealing with rumination. Listening to music, going out, reading books, dancing, socializing, etc., help break the ruminative cycle.

Rumination and Treatment Methods:

Certain studies suggest that intentional and unintentional ruminations may have different effects on the treatment processes. For example, encouraging individuals who have lost loved ones to engage in intentional rumination is believed to have functional outcomes in the grieving process. Therefore, the treatment process should be tailored to the individual’s past experiences, emotions, awareness, and the proper methods should be selected.

One of the methods used in the treatment of rumination is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The goal of the treatment process is to stop the repetition of negative thoughts, identify emotions such as anxiety and sadness caused by thoughts, replace them with new thought patterns, and teach problem-solving skills. This way, the aim is for individuals to recognize the ruminative thought cycle, realize its effects, and learn ways to break this cognitive cycle.

Rumination is a treatable condition, and the treatment process is led by clinical psychologists and/or psychiatrists who are experts in the field. Symptoms such as frequently thinking about the same event, feelings of restlessness due to thoughts, loss of appetite, fatigue, and reluctance should be taken into consideration, and individuals should seek help from psychiatric centers. For any information and support, you can schedule an online appointment.

 

References:

Arslan, Ö. (2021). The relationship between functionality, childhood traumas, rumination, dysfunctional attitudes, hopelessness, and neuroticism in patients with major depressive disorder (Specialization thesis) Atatürk University Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Erzurum. Teker, S. (2023). Examination of post-traumatic development based on core beliefs, ruminations, and creativity (Unpublished master’s thesis) Başkent University Institute of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology Clinical Psychology Master’s Program, Ankara. Öztürk, S. (2021). The effect of anxiety, rumination, self-criticism, and self-compassion on sleep quality (Unpublished master’s thesis) Istanbul Medipol University Institute of Social Sciences, Istanbul.

https://www.verywellmind.com/rumination-why-do-people-obsess-over-things-3144571#:~:text=Rumination%20has%20a%20number%20of,and%20some%20mental%20health%20conditions.

Rumination: Signs, Symptoms, Causes, Statistics, & Treatment (therecoveryvillage.com)

 

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