Anxiety is a very popularly known concept, among other things because practically everyone has felt it at very high levels throughout their life.
However, this psychological phenomenon has a powerful ally that is not talked about as much: psychological rumination.
In this article We will see how anxiety and rumination reinforce each other.and why they sometimes end up generating a problem that gets bigger and bigger.
- Related article: “What is anxiety: how to recognize it and what to do”
What is psychological rumination?
Psychological rumination can be briefly explained as a propensity to thinking over and over again the same type of thoughts. This is what we experience many times when we notice that it is difficult for us to stop thinking about something, in those situations in which certain contents of our mind “pull us” and, almost without realizing it, we begin to associate everything that is happening to us with those thoughts that we had already been pondering, so that we became more and more involved in it.
Sometimes, psychological rumination can act as fuel for creative processes, as it helps us focus on a topic and see an infinite number of nuances in it. However, in almost all cases it goes hand in hand with a certain degree of discomfort and, as we will see, stress or anxiety.
On the other hand, The concept of psychological rumination is closely related to that of intrusive thoughts.. These types of mental images and ideas emerge in our consciousness without prior warning and have a disruptive effect, that is, they disturb our state of mind in some sense, dragging with them a whole series of thoughts that have little or nothing to do with what we had. in mind before that first “intrusion”.
If psychological rumination is a vicious circle in constant movement and transformation, intrusive thoughts are the elements that give it impetus, and at the same time, they are part of its content, what we think about.
These are usually mental contents with an emotional charge, that is, with a great ability to mobilize our emotions, either because they lead us to evoke memories that are important to us or because they lead us to focus our attention on ideas to which we are sensitive or vulnerable. In practice, the type of feelings and emotions associated with intrusive thoughts usually revolve around anxiety and fear… and in the next section we will see why that is.
- You may be interested: “Rumination: the annoying vicious circle of thought”
How do anxiety and rumination interact?
Now that we have seen what psychological rumination consists of, we have to ask ourselves what this phenomenon has to do with being anxious. The answer to this question is already intuited in the very concept of “anxiety”.
Ultimately, anxiety is a psychological and physiological response to real or imagined situations that put us “on guard”That is, they require us to be ready to act quickly at any sign that we could be harmed by a situation, either by exposing ourselves to danger or by losing opportunities that would make us feel bad. In other words, anxiety is based on avoidance: we remain alert to try to prevent something that would hurt us physically or emotionally from happening. And what is one of the most sudden experiences that can cause us discomfort practically without doing anything to deserve it? Exactly, the intrusive thoughts.
What explains the interaction between anxiety and psychological rumination is, mainly, that the simple fact of trying to avoid intrusive thoughts makes us much more vulnerable to them, attracting them to our consciousness and causing us to fall headlong into psychological rumination.
If we are alert to try not to think about something, we will surely end up thinking about it, because we will be establishing many connections between ideas that have as their epicenter those thoughts that we try to avoid. Giving so much importance to these mental contents, any stimulus that may vaguely remind us of any of the concepts associated with them will transport our attentional focus towards those intrusive thoughts, making them go from being latent to being active and capturing all of our attention.
Thus, rumination reinforces the state of anxiety by exposing us again and again to certain images and thoughts that we try to avoidand in turn, anxiety makes us very defensive because we feel vulnerable. Both psychological phenomena become confused with each other as they feed off each other.
Luckily, there are ways to overcome these types of alterations in thinking and emotions. Although neither anxiety nor rumination are psychological disorders in themselves, in psychotherapy it is very common to intervene in these forms of discomfort, helping patients to better modulate not only their emotions, but also their thoughts and attention focus.
- Related article: “The keys to managing stress and anxiety”
Are you interested in starting a psychological therapy process?
If you are going through a difficult time and are looking for professional psychological support, I invite you to contact me.
Pigeon King Cardona
Pigeon King Cardona
General Health Psychologist
My name is Paloma Rey Cardona and I am a General Health Psychologist; In my office you can have child and adolescent therapy services or for adults, and we also offer online sessions by video call.