For those of us who suffer from anxiety and/or depression, ruminating can be a chronic symptom of our distress. Ruminating is like wearing a constant groove in a record, you replay the same thoughts over and over until it is nearly impossible to stop. In this post we are going to explore the signs that we are ruminating, the reasons why we engage in this type of worry, and what steps we can take to stop.
What are some examples of ruminating?
• When we replay the same conversations in our minds but with different reactions on our part. We may think things like, “If I had only said this instead.” We may browbeat ourselves for not saying or doing the perfect things to be in control of an interpersonal situation.
• When we worry about the same things over and over with multiple bad outcomes. For example, a parent may worry about harm coming to their child. This may manifest in worries over the child’s health, whether or not they will make it to school and back safely, or whether or not someone will bully them or hurt them in some way. It is a constant barrage of “what if” thoughts which leaves us feeling paralyzed.
• Ruminating can include incessant worrying right at bedtime which keeps us up into the wee hours. These thoughts can include negative images of how the day did not go as expected. It can also include worrying about all the things we have not yet done and a feeling of being overwhelmed.
When is ruminating unhealthy?
Ruminating is never healthy for us but there are degrees to which this worrying is detrimental for not only our mental health but our physical health as well. Here are some of the signs to indicate that you should get some help from a mental health practitioner to stop ruminating.
It is time to get help when…
• Your worrying is causing you to have sleep problems and is preventing you from either getting to sleep or staying asleep.
• Your ruminating is causing you to have physical symptoms of stress such as headaches, fatigue, or stomach aches. In addition if your ruminating is affecting your normal eating habits and you find yourself either overeating or not eating enough, it may be time to visit your doctor.
• Your ruminating thoughts are interfering with your ability to work, parent, or function in the day to day.
• If you are suffering from the constant worrying and cannot find a way to stop on your own, this is a sign that you need some help from a therapist.
Why do we ruminate?
This is just my personal belief but I believe some of us ruminate because it feels like a way to control uncontrollable events in our life. In the back of our minds perhaps we think that if we just worry some more, we will be able to solve the problems at hand. It feels like we are doing something although all we are doing is spinning our wheels. I also believe that some of us are simply hard wired for worrying and our anxiety can be genetic. We also learn to worry from our family of origin. If you tend to ruminate, chances are others in your family engage in similar behaviors.