While everyone grapples with rumination from time to time, some demographics may be more prone to this detrimental pattern of thinking than others.

Rumination is the tendency to repetitively focus on a problem without arriving at a solution. Rumination is a significant mental health issue, as people prone to ruminating thoughts are at a higher risk for certain mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.  By learning more about rumination and reviewing current rumination statistics, a person can better understand the symptoms and situations affecting their life or the life of a loved one.

Prevalence of Ruminating Thoughts

Everyone has ruminating thoughts. Some people ruminate often, while others only ruminate occasionally. Since rumination is a symptom of mental health conditions rather than a separate condition of its own, gathering statistics about the prevalence of rumination can be difficult. However, experts do know that women ruminate more often than men, and older people over the age of 62 ruminate less than younger people.

To a person who ruminates frequently, rumination becomes a filter through which all life events and situations pass. This distorted view of the world can lead to many unwanted consequences, including:

  • More intense stress
  • Increased depressive symptoms
  • Reduced effectiveness in problem-solving
  • Desire to push away social support
  • Interferences in daily activities like cooking, cleaning and hygiene

The mental health conditions most closely related to rumination are depression and anxiety. However, other mental health conditions may produce symptoms that can be confused for rumination, like:

Ruminating Thoughts and Suicide Connection

Research shows that ruminating thoughts are associated with increased thoughts of suicide. The amount of rumination a person experiences can also predict the level of suicidal ideation that person will have in the future. Since rumination tends to be rigid and consistent, a person with intense ruminating thoughts may continuously think they could be better off dead, which is a pattern that can lead to suicide.  

Brooding Rumination Prognosis and Outlook

Mental health professionals use specialized measurement tools or interviews to assess a person’s level of rumination or brooding. As mentioned, all people take part in some degree of rumination. Higher levels of rumination are related to a poorer prognosis and more negative outlook. People with low levels of rumination have a smaller risk of depression, anxiety, stress and suicide. These people may also respond better to treatments to improve rumination or other symptoms of mental health conditions.

Statistics on Treatment for Ruminating Thoughts

While each person’s thinking style is unique, professional treatment can help individuals avoid engaging in the circular, negative thinking that characterizes rumination. Some of the effective strategies for combating rumination include:

  • Going for a walk in nature
  • Setting aside time to plan ways to address sources of stress
  • Talking to a loved one
  • Journaling your thoughts

The statistics on rumination treatments do not exist because current therapies focus on addressing depression or anxiety, rather than the specific symptom of rumination. Fortunately, treatment approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy can be useful for counteracting rumination.

Treatment for rumination will frequently require a focus on substance use issues as well. People may seek out substances as a way to decrease rumination, which can result in addiction and physical dependence.

Rumination and substance use often co-occur. If you or a loved one live with both of these issues, consider calling The Recovery Village. A helpful representative can direct you toward effective treatment and help you begin the recovery process. Reach out today to get started.

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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 – Eric Patterson, LPC
Eric Patterson is a licensed professional counselor in the Pittsburgh area who is dedicated to helping children, adults, and families meet their treatment goals. Read more

American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition.” 2013.

Colino, S. “The Hazards of Rumination for Your Menta[…] and Physical Health.” U.S. News and World Report, March 14, 2018. Accessed on April 12, 2019.

Johnson, D.P. and Whisman, M.A. “Gender Differences in Rumination: A Meta-Analysis.” Personality and Individual Difference, August 2013. Accessed on April 12, 2019.

Miranda R, Nolen-Hoeksema S. “Brooding and Reflection: Rumination P[…]n a Community Sample.” Behavior Research Therapy, May 19, 2014. Accessed on April 12, 2019.

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.