Negative Thoughts Can Affect Your Mental Health

By Baker131313 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Researchers have recently studied the role negative thoughts can play in repetitive thinking in depression, substance abuse, anxiety and eating disorders. When a person spends countless hours worrying about offending people, at the end of the day it can cause him or her to replay each conversation and interaction over in their mind. It’s done to try to figure out if something offensive was done and to determine if the person needs to apologize.

It’s impossible for some people to turn off swirling thoughts in their mind. It can become wearying, worrisome and discouraging. While it’s normal to dwell on your thoughts when you think you’ve maybe done something wrong, some people can’t stop thinking this way even though they desperately want to.

The Study

Medical researchers believe that all cycle of uncontrollable worry or rumination may be an important mechanism that supporting a range of psychological disorders like depression, eating disorders, anxiety issues and substance abuse. Possibly even making these issues much worse.
Rumination has been found to be a predictor of both the onset of depression, as well as the continuation of it in a number of different studies.

In the lab, the participant’s symptoms worsened when they are asked or taught how to ruminate, according to Ed Watkins, a professor of experimental and applied clinical psychology at the University of Exeter.

Rumination is described as the overpowering, monotonous dwelling on the meanings, causes, and implications of negative feelings or events that have occurred. In contrast, worrying tends to be mostly about the future and what may or may not happen.

Scientists are currently researching what causes these types of intrusive, repetitive thoughts and what can be done to help individuals who suffer from these troubling cycles. One area of the investigation focuses on biases and deficits in the thought process and attention.

The likelihood to ruminate appears to be caused from a combination of genetic, personality and learning history. Personality traits such as neuroticism and conscientiousness are closely linked with rumination. Negative experiences such as childhood abuse, being the victim of bullying and trauma are also linked to rumination.

Additionally, researchers have also identified that the more a person dwells on problems in an unhealthy way, the more the individual gets locked into a pattern of rumination. Even small triggers can start someone engaging in the process of rumination.

In a study performed by the University of Oxford, a team of researchers studied a group of individuals and found that people who are high worriers have a lessened ability to control their attention and block out distractions.


The use of cognitive behavioral therapy strategies are quite popular in the psychology field, but it can be hard to develop them and demonstrate their benefits. These methods have been used with mixed success in the treatment of anxiety disorders.
In addition to cognitive behavioral retraining, two other methods have been helpful in treating those with rumination issues. Mindfulness can help people learn to observe and not judge or evaluate themselves. The other method is thought retraining, which involves allowing someone to focus on their problems for a select amount of time and then forcing the brain to think about other things.

While ruminating can be problematic, with the newest study information and better treatment, people with this issue can find healthy and productive ways of dealing with their issues and avoid falling into the pit of doom, despair and depressive thinking.


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