Rumination is a thought processing disorder linked to anxiety and other mental health disorders. Learn more about rumination by examining common myths and misconceptions.

Rumination refers to the thought process of repetitively thinking about something emotional. Because rumination is linked to many mental disorders, it is important to understand what rumination is. We will examine five common rumination myths to learn important facts about ruminating thoughts.

1. Myth: Ruminating thoughts are always detrimental.

Fact: Ruminating thoughts can be positive and beneficial.

Negative thinking can lead to depression and anxiety. Negative rumination is the repetitive focus on thoughts that cause sad and negative emotions. On the other hand, positive rumination is characterized by focusing on repetitive thoughts that trigger feelings of good emotions. Reliving how happy a good moment feels is an example of positive rumination. Positive ruminations can be protective against depressive symptoms and build confidence. Further, decreasing brooding and increasing positive rumination may improve depressive symptoms.

2. Myth: Rumination is always indicative of an underlying mental health condition.

Fact: Some degree of rumination is normal.

Rumination may be normal if it is not interfering with life. Normal rumination is temporary and distractible, and can also be both positive and negative. Unfortunately, negative rumination is part of every anxiety disorder. Depression is also associated with ruminating thoughts. People with depression tend to ruminate about themes that raise anxiety. This heightened anxiety interferes with function and further increases depression. Individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder also tend to ruminate more than usual.

3. Myth: Rumination is a rare condition.

Fact: Everyone ruminates.

Rumination is extremely common. Everyone has experienced ruminating thoughts at some time in their lives. It’s normal to have positive and negative ruminations. Thus, it is difficult to determine rumination statistics.

However, it is known that the frequency of rumination higher in those with depression and anxiety, and it can also be predictive of depression and anxiety. Additionally, women and girls are more prone to mental illness and this is partly because they are more likely to ruminate than men and boys.

4. Myth: Rumination gets worse with age.

Fact: Children and older individuals ruminate the least.

Rumination is not common in children. Because pre-adolescent brains have not yet developed the skills needed for rumination, ruminating thoughts tend to be first observed in adolescence.  At this age, rumination is fueled by feelings of anger, sadness, and anxiety. From there, rates of rumination increase, with the highest levels of ruminators being under the age of 25. Rates of rumination then begin to decline with age. Older adults, those 63 and older, ruminate the least. It is thought that greater life satisfaction protects older adults from rumination.

5. Myth: Ruminating thoughts are impossible to control.

Fact: It is possible to conquer debilitating rumination.

Ruminative thought patterns develop early in life. Learning how to stop ruminating thoughts is possible. Stopping rumination involves breaking the habit of negative cyclical thoughts. Distraction, planning, meditation, and therapy are a few of the actions that help stop ruminating thoughts.

It is also common to try to cope with rumination by turning to binge behavior, such as binge drinking or binge eating. If you are turning to alcohol or substances to deal with ruminating thoughts, The Recovery Village can help. We have comprehensive treatment plans that can help with co-occurring addictions and mental health disorders. Reach out today for more information.

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Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Aleishia Harris-Arnold, PhD
Aleishia Harris-Arnold earned her PhD in Immunology in 2014 from Stanford University School of Medicine. Read more

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.