Sadie is a thirty -two years old technician working in a science lab. She works hand and wants to do well at her job, but feels that her colleagues don’t value her, and that her boss sometimes overlooks her contributions. Sadie was very bright at school, but always felt that other girls , who were more attractive and extrovert , got more attention than her and seemed to get more praise for what they did- so this is familiar story for her . Sadie spends an awful lot of time dwelling on why this always happens to her. She has a long drive home after work, and as she drives, she thinks, it is so unfair. I’ve never been valued; what is the matter with me? Why does everyone always ignore me? What am I doing wrong? She replays scenes in her head when she thinks someone has been unfair and has imaginary arguments with people. In reality she never brings this up. Often by the time she gets home she feels extremely low and desperate.
Do you ever find yourself constantly dwelling on a problem without getting anywhere?
Do you get stuck thinking about why you feel down or going over your mistakes and failures in your head?
These are examples of what we call rumination – repetitive thinking about problems, difficulties, and feelings.
In depression, rumination is characterized by thinking about the symptoms of depression, their causes, consequences and implications . Rumination often includes ”Why” questions such as ” Why do I feel so bad?” , ” Why are things much harder than they used to be? , ” Why did this happen?’, ” Why did he treat me like that?”
Rumination can involve dwelling on an upsetting event, such as the death of a loved one, losing a job or the end of relationship. It can also focus on current concerns and problems, on your sense of self, and especially on those aspects of yourself that you don’t like.
It is a common problem , particularly for people who experience prolonged or repeated depression . Research conducted over the last twenty years has shown that people who ruminate are much more likely to get depressed and to stay depressed . Individuals who report high levels of rumination at one time are more likely to have become clinically depressed when they are followed up later.
Experimental studies have also shown that rumination tends to make feelings worse . If you are already feeling down and sad, and begin to ruminate , those sad feelings are likely to get stronger . The same applies for feelings of anxiety and anger. It is like a supercharger that boosts the effects of negative thinking on your mood.
You may already have realised that rumination involves Negative Automatic Thoughts. However , rather than being a single isolated negative thought , rumination is an automatic chain of negative thoughts , which makes it much harder to stop . Rumination is the habit of going back over and over the same concerns.
So successfully challenging one negative thought may have little benefit, because it is shortly followed by another negative thought on a similar topic. When you have a whole waterfall of negative thinking cascading down, it may not be helpful to try to stop each single drop! Rather, it may work better to divert the whole flow.
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