Rumination Syndrome: What It Is And How To Manage It

Rumination Syndrome

The words we use in psychology to name the phenomena that occur within the human mind do not grow from a lemon tree. Many constructs in this discipline are named from terms that we use in everyday language, since from them it is possible to develop a metaphor or analogy capable of explaining a psychological concept. A very curious one is that of rumination. For the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), the verb ruminate refers to the action carried out by some animals when chewing food that was previously ingested and stored in a cavity. That is, it involves chewing something a second time.

Curiously, in its “psi” version, rumination refers to “re-chewing” one’s own thoughts and problems repetitively. In this article we will see in detail what rumination syndrome entails and how it can affect our lives.

What is rumination syndrome?

Rumination is the process by which a person evaluates a series of events in their life in a repetitive, cyclical and usually negative manner. This leads her to carry out a network of interpretations about the possible causes and consequences of the events. It is common for people to ruminate without even realizing that we have been doing it for a long time. Maybe it’s a little reminiscent of the feeling of waking up in the middle of a bus ride, looking out the window and wondering: “Where am I and how did I get here?”

The content of what is overthought will depend on the person, their learning history and the way in which language is interwoven between thoughts.

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The concepts we have about the reality in which we live are concatenated with each other in a peculiar way, but this process is extremely complex. In fact, it is almost impossible to register it at the moment, and that is why it is so difficult to do the journey in reverse. However, It is also very likely that, when a person ruminates, the thoughts at some point are characterized by judgments and evaluations about themselves ; about his own abilities, his own worth or his position regarding the challenges he faces in life. This, on multiple occasions, ends up producing increasingly intense emotional states, even more thoughts, and in general terms, greater discomfort.

In this sense, When rumination appears constantly and interferes with the person’s quality of life, it is usually called “rumination syndrome.” although this is not a concept that is officially described in the diagnostic manuals used in the field of mental health.

Another point to consider about rumination is that, as we have been developing, it has a certain degree of automatism. Normally we do not record the moment in which we begin to ruminate. However, this does not mean that it is strictly impossible to be aware of when we begin to ruminate, nor that we are incapable of interrupting an episode of rumination. Unlike automatic thoughts—which, if we try to “turn them off,” we will only experience greater suffering—when we detect that we are ruminating, we can redirect our attention toward another more valuable or significant activity without our discomfort increasing.

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This does not mean that it is an easy task to achieve it. In fact, although we have all ruminated at some point in our lives when faced with certain situations in which we do not know how to act, in many cases the tendency to ruminate frequently can become problematic. Based on this, let’s see in detail what consequences rumination could have as a practice sustained over time.

How Rumination Can Negatively Affect Our Lives

Although doing a deep analysis of certain circumstances can lead us to solve problems effectively and in a manner consistent with what is valuable to us, as we said, rumination can often become an ineffective strategy for action. In fact, we could even maintain that rumination is based on its opposite: inaction. And allowing ourselves to be eclipsed by our thoughts can not only cause us discomfort, but also brings with it the next big problem: when we are ruminating, we normally abstract ourselves from reality, we find ourselves on a plane other than what is happening here and now.

And what is the problem with remaining distant from the present moment? Well, in general terms, the main problem is that We are not available to give concrete answers to the internal or external conflicts that concern us or that require our attention. Rumination has a strong passive character on the part of people.

We fall into the illusion that by “re-chewing” the same issue over and over again we will end up solving it; or that we will arrive at a certainty or comforting feeling that never really arrives. In other words, by investing our time in a deliberate analysis of certain aspects of our life or ourselves, we run the risk of putting our focus on a network of thoughts that does not usually lead us to action or the resolution of a problem. conflict, but it only ends up generating greater suffering for us.

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If this becomes our favorite way to face daily challenges, we could refer to this tendency as the so-called “rumination syndrome”, although from other theoretical positions it could also be considered a behavior that supports experiential avoidance. It has been found that rumination It is a key predictor not only of conditions linked to anxiety but also significantly in depression. Taking these inputs into account, we will notice how detrimental rumination could be to our lives, but what can we do about it?

Some strategies to stop ruminating

Based on what has been developed, here are some strategies in case you notice that you fall into habitual rumination:

Finally, we believe it is necessary to highlight that if rumination is frequent in a person’s life and they perceive it as a problem, consultation with a mental health professional capable of addressing the particularities of their case could be extremely useful.