Do You Ruminate Too Much?


Written by Dr. Paul Kelly    December 2, 2023


How To Figure It Out. Check Below.

  1. What is rumination?
  2. What are the benefits of ruminating?
  3. What are the warning signs of excessive rumination?
  4. What are the problems with excessive rumination?
  5. How can you control rumination – so it works for you, not against you?

If so, check out this article.


What is Rumination?

Rumination means thinking a lot about a problem or a situation that bothers you. Everyone does it sometimes.

It is normal to try to solve a problem by thinking about it. You might look at the problem from different sides, think of your options, and plan what to do. This kind of rumination can be beneficial.

But, if excessive ruminate or  intrusive thoughts can cause depression or anxiety symptoms.

Are you curious about the benefits of ruminating? If so, have a look at the next section.


What are the Benefits of Ruminating?

Rumination is a normal response to difficulties. Sometimes it can be helpful to think a problem over and try to solve it. You can look at things from different points of view. Then rumination can help you to come up with insight and practical solutions. Would you like to learn more about the benefits of rumination? If so, have a look at the next section. Which of these Benefits are working for you?

Benefits of Rumination

Deliberate rumination can help you make positive changes. Rumination can be a healthy coping mechanism when you control it.

Check out the possible benefits below. Which of these healthy coping strategies are working for you?

1. Rumination Can Help You Focus

Sometimes you need to think a lot about a problem situation. You want to know why it happened and what it means. You ask yourself “why” questions and try to be honest. This can help you understand things better. Then you can feel more in control and have more certainty. And you can learn from your mistakes and avoid them in the future.

This can be good for your mental health.

2. Rumination can Promote Self-Motivation

Sometimes you think a lot about yourself. You want to know what you are good at and what you need to improve. Ruminating for this reason can help you grow as a person.

When you are trying to motivate yourself, remember to be kind. Be honest about your flaws and what you want to change. But don’t be mean or harsh to yourself. This can make you feel bad and stuck.

Instead, be kind and encouraging. If you act this way, you can avoid the negative aspects of harsh rumination.

3. Rumination to Plan and Fix Unresolved Problems

Sometimes you think a lot about the future. You want to plan for what might happen or solve problems that are not solved yet. Rumination for these goals can help you gain perspective and avoid unrealistic goals.

If you think too much and do nothing – you can get stuck. Balance thinking and doing. Take action as well as reflect. This can help you avoid getting stuck in excessive rumination.

4. Rumination can help you Reflect and Explore Memories

Positive rumination can be a pleasant distraction. It can help you take a break when you need it. Enjoy the break.

But be watchful for excessive rumination. If you daydream or think too much, there are some risks. You might fail to notice something important. You might miss a chance to change your situation for the better.

So, use positive rumination to help your mental well-being. You deserve a break. Set a time limit so rumination does not have a negative impact on your mental health.

What are the warning signs of excessive rumination? See below to find out.


What are the Warning Signs of Excessive Rumination?

Do any of these statements apply to you?

  • You feel stuck in a repeating loop of negative thoughts. It is hard to break free.
  • You are not living in the present moment. Your ruminating thoughts dwell on the past or the future.
  • You feel worse after ruminative thinking about your problems.
  • You have difficulty concentrating, sleeping, or enjoying life.
  • You isolate yourself from others or avoid situations that trigger your rumination.
  • Ruminating increases your distress, anxiety, or depression.
  • Rumination traps you in a cycle of anxious thoughts, low self-esteem, and feeling sad.


What 8 Problems Are Caused by Excessive Rumination?

If you ruminate too much, you will feel worse. You can get stuck in a loop of negative thinking and negative emotions.

Do you have any problems because of excessive rumination? To find out, look at the problems listed below.

Be kind to yourself when you read this section. It is not your fault if your brain picked up the habit of excessive rumination.

There is some good news. You can learn to stop ruminating. I show you how in the Tips and Recommendation Section.

1. Rumination is an Emotional Amplifier

  • Rumination increases and prolongs feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety, and depression.
  • If you are already depressed, rumination will make it worse and keep you stuck.
  • Rumination makes a vicious cycle between negative thinking and negative emotions. Ruminating triggers feeling bad, and feeling bad, triggers more rumination.
  • Rumination can keep you locked in depression and anxiety.

2. Rumination interferes with Problem-Solving

  • Rumination makes you more pessimistic.

Rumination makes your thinking unclear and vague. Then, it is hard to focus enough on the details of a problem to find a good solution.

3. Rumination Encourages Avoidance

  • Rumination makes you unsure and less confident.
  • You tend to avoid facing problems and situations when you are unsure and less confident.
  • When you avoid your problems or difficult feelings, they will continue or worsen.

4. Rumination Makes it Hard to Concentrate and Pay Attention

  • When you ruminate, you are “in your head.” You are not paying attention to what is around you.
  • Then you tune out. You miss what is going on around you.
  • You don’t notice how other people are actually reacting to you. Someone may be smiling in a friendly way. But, you miss it because you are worrying about what they think about you.
  • When you get distracted by rumination, you miss opportunities. You can miss chances to deal with your problems and fix them.
  • So ruminating keeps you feeling distressed. This can happen even in situations where you could have done something to improve things.

5. Rumination increases your risk of mental health problems

  • Rumination is a factor in many mental health concerns. These  including anxiety disorders, PTSD, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. Rumination can also worsen many conditions, such as   major depression, dysthymia, generalized anxiety disorder., substance and alcohol abuse, and eating disorders.

6. Rumination and Insomnia

  • Rumination makes it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. Then, your quality of sleep is poor.

Poor sleep affects your concentration and ability to focus. A vicious cycle of poor sleep gets stronger when you ruminate about it.

7. Rumination interferes with Psychotherapy

  • Rumination makes it harder for patients to recover from psychological disorders.
  • Rumination impairs concentration and problem-solving. Then it is harder for patients to improve during treatment. Rumination interferes with their ability to process ideas and evidence.
  • Elevated rumination at the start of treatment predicts that treatment will take longer.  That is why it is important to find a therapist who knows how to help you stop ruminating.

8. Rumination Affects Physical Health

  • Rumination can keep people locked in chronic stress. Chronic stress places them at greater risk for poor physical health.
  • Rumination is more frequent in people with such health conditions. Examples include as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and chronic pain.
  • Rumination can keep people trapped in a “flight or flight” response to stress. This can produce increased heart rate and high blood pressure. These body reactions make it more difficult for people to return to a calm rest state.


Is Rumination a Mental Illness?

Rumination is not a mental illness. It is a mental habit. When it gets out of control it can lead to problems. You can learn new mental habits to overcome the problems caused by rumination.


Can Problematic Rumination be Overcome?

Yes. You can learn how to control rumination so it stops causing you problems. Check out the next section to learn how to reduce rumination.


How Can We Stop Ruminating?

Rumination can be helpful sometimes, but not always. If we ruminate too much, it can make us feel worse and keep us from solving our problems. There are some ways to stop ruminating or reduce it:

1. Mindfulness Techniques:

Practicing mindfulness can help you notice when you are ruminating. Then, you could talk to yourself  to get some distance from the thoughts. You might label what is happening by saying “thinking.” Then refocus your attention to some sensation to disengage from the rumination. This mental strategy is “Anchoring in the Present.” It can help you to break out of a thought cycle. Acknowledge that the thoughts are there, but don’t feed them with attention. Just shift your attention to something else.

2. Behavioral Activation:

You can overcome excessive rumination by paying attention to some activity. Get doing something and focus on it. Then ruminative thoughts will have less power over your emotions. You don’t have to ‘block’ the thoughts, just treat them as if they are not important. Focus on something else.

3. Limiting Time Spent on Rumination:

Setting aside a specific time to ruminate – not too much, try 10 or 20 minutes. Write down your thoughts during this “worry time.” Then tell yourself it is okay to focus on something else because you have “captured” the worries.

4. Problem-Solving Training:

Sometimes, rumination is a response to unsolved problems or stressors. Here are some effective problem-solving skills. Try looking at the pros and cons of options. Write out the next step you could take and schedule a time to do it. Consult with an expert. Pick someone with expertise in the topic that worries you.

5. Cognitive Behavioral Techniques:

Check to see if you have fallen into a Thinking Trap. Do you have ruminative thoughts that the worst will happen and there is nothing you can do to cope? Try to look at things in a more realistic and positive way. Ask a friend for their perspective.

6. Seek Professional Support:

You may find that a self-help approach is not working, or not working quickly enough. If so, consider working with a psychologist or therapist. When you interview them, ask them how they would help you to stop ruminating. Here are some some useful approaches to ask about:Barlow’s Unified Protocol, Mindfulness-Based Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.



I selected and reviewed all the sources for this article. I also used my judgment based on decades of clinical experience treating depression.  I wish you well. Dr. Kelly

  1. Watkins, Edward R., Rumination-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Depression, Guilford Press, 2016.
  2. Teasdale, John, What Happens in Mindfulness: Inner awakening and embodied cognition, Guilford Press, 2022.
  3. Barlow, David, et al., Unified Protocol for Transdiagnostic Treatment of Emotional Disorders, Workbook, Second Edition, Oxford University Press, 2018.
  4. Dozois, D. J. A., & Beck, A. T. (2023). Negative thinking: Cognitive products and schema structures. In D. J. A. Dozois & K. S. Dobson (Eds.), Treatment of psychosocial risk factors in depression (pp. 207–232). American Psychological Association.
  5. Foroughi, A., Sadeghi, K., Parvizifard, A., Parsa Moghadam, A., Davarinejad, O., Farnia, V., & Azar, G. (2020). The effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for reducing rumination and improving mindfulness and self-compassion in patients with treatment-resistant depression. Trends in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, 42(2), 138–146.
  6. Petwal, P., Sudhir, P. M., & Mehrotra, S. (2023). The role of rumination in anxiety disorders. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 41(4), 950–966.
  7. Feldhaus, C. G., Jacobs, R. H., Watkins, E. R., Peters, A. T., Bessette, K. L., & Langenecker, S. A. (2020). Rumination-focused cognitive behavioral therapy decreases anxiety and increases behavioral activation among remitted adolescents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 29(7), 1982–1991.