Steven M Kleiner, MD
I have a distinct memory from my college days. I lived in a dorm room and periodically I would open up my refrigerator door in search of something to eat. Being a male college student, my eyes often met empty shelves - save some condiments such as salad dressing or ketchup. I would close the refrigerator door and go about my business, maybe to socialize or study. Then, ten minutes later I would open the refrigerator door again in search of something to eat. Predictably, my eyes landed on the same empty shelves. One-half hour later, I would open the refrigerator door yet again - as if eatable matter can spontaneously appear ... again, empty shelves.
I believe this is a real life version of what we do in our minds when we are anxious. We become preoccupied with what are called ruminations --circular, stereotyped worries that do not resolve anything. Yet, these anxious worries repeatedly plague us in loop-like fashion. Like the re-opening of the refrigerator door, we are compelled to re-visit the same thoughts, often without any resolution to our worries.
Sometimes we ruminate about singularly stressful things in our lives such as the deteriorating health of a loved one. Other times, we ruminate about issues in the workplace. Often however, what we ruminate about is less important and consistent than the uncertainty and unease that animates our ruminations. We might be feeling generally vulnerable or uncertain and therefore ruminate about a whole host of topics, such as revisiting what we said to a loved one, wondering what our boss thinks of us or revisiting how we presented ourselves to a new colleague.
If our ruminations become debilitating, and we find ourselves either unable to concentrate during the day or experiencing insomnia at night, this may be a sign of an underlying anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), may have other symptoms as well. Ruminations, however, are often a central part of GAD. Treating your ruminations is part of treating the underlying condition of anxiety that fuels such ruminations.
If you feel you are stuck, constantly opening that internal refrigerator door without resolution, you may be experiencing an Anxiety Disorder. Please consult your doctor or medical provider. Importantly, this can be treated in a variety ways, and your physician can help you decide which choice is best for you.
Published On: March 25, 2008