Major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) have been clinically shown to have four major overlapping symptoms: restlessness, loss of energy or feeling fatigued much of the day, difficulty concentrating, and sleep disturbances of insomnia. Rumination can be another experience associated with either disorder and has been defined in previous studies as “a negative, repetitive style of thinking about present and past symptoms, loss, and failure.” When we ruminate, we tend to dwell not only on events that we can’t change, but also on the “negative” aspects of our lives. While rumination is dangerous for anyone, it can be especially dangerous for those with MDD and/or GAD due to the other symptoms experienced.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology sought to the effects of rumination on those with either or both disorders. The research study involved 145 participants, 38 of whom were diagnosed with MDD but not GAD, 36 of whom were diagnosed with GAD but not MDD, a dual-diagnosis group which consists of 38 individuals who were diagnosed with both MDD and GAD, and 33 individuals with no diagnosis to serve as a controlled group. Participants completed interviews and also wore an electronic device that would produce signals throughout the day; individuals were asked to record their thoughts and whether they were “positive” or “negative” each time the device signaled them to.
Results from the study showed the greater rumination predicted more symptoms of those experienced with MDD or GAD; it also predicted greater levels of social withdrawal, inactivity, and behavioral avoidance. This makes sense, because during those times that we engage in rumination, we’re so hyper-focused on what our lives our lacking – why would we want to participate in life more? Participants with either MDD or GAD experienced difficulty in engaging in motivated activity when they were ruminating.
Overall, the study’s results show that rumination can cause a lot of damage. Why? Because it can take us away from the present moment, it can exacerbate the symptoms of a mental illness, and it can cause us to hold back on what is supposed to make life more enjoyable. Speak with your therapist about ruminating if it’s something that you struggle with. Identify tools to overcome it. It is possible to change your thinking patterns – cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common therapy tool for this.
Avalon Malibu is a world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery center. If you are ready to seek treatment to develop the tools you need to overcome life’s obstacles and be on the road towards happiness, health, and well-being, contact us today at 855-668-9094 for a consultation. It’s never too late, and there are people here ready to help you.