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How do anxiety and rumination reinforce each other?

Anxiety is a very popularly known concept, among other things because practically everyone has felt it at very high levels throughout their lives.

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 sometimes they end up generating a problem that is getting 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 turning over and over the same kinds of thoughts. It 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 were already pondering, so that we become more and more involved in it.

Sometimes, psychological rumination can lead to act as fuel for creative processes, since it helps us to focus on a topic and see in it an infinite number of nuances. However, on almost all occasions it goes hand in hand with a certain degree of discomfort and, as we shall see, with 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 in some sense our state of mind, dragging with it 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, thoughts intrusive are the elements that give it momentum, and at the same time, they are part of its content, what we give turns.

It is usually about mental content with an emotional charge, that is, with a great capacity to mobilize our emotionsEither because they lead us to evoke important memories for 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 tend to orbit around anxiety and fear… and in the next section we will see why that is.

  • You may be interested in: "Rumination: the annoying vicious circle of thought"

How do anxiety and rumination interact?

Now that we have seen what psychological rumination consists of, we must 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 can get out of a situation harmed, either by exposing ourselves to dangers or by missing opportunities that would make us feel wrong. In other words, anxiety is based on avoidance: we stay alert to try not to stop something from happening that would hurt us physically or emotionally. 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.

Psychological rumination

What explains the interaction between anxiety and psychological rumination is, mainly, that the simple fact of trying to avoid thoughts intrusive makes us much more vulnerable to these, attracting them to our consciousness and causing us to fall fully into rumination psychological.

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 such importance to these mental contents, any stimulus that may vaguely remind us of any of the concepts associated with them, will transport our attention focus towards those intrusive thoughts, causing them to go from being latent to being active and capturing our full attention.

Thus, rumination reinforces the state of anxiety by exposing ourselves over and over to certain images and thoughts that we try to avoid, and in turn, anxiety makes us very defensive because we feel vulnerable. Both psychological phenomena become confused with each other as they feed back on each other.

Fortunately, there are ways to overcome these types of thought and emotional disturbances. Although neither anxiety nor rumination are in themselves psychological disordersIn 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 their attention focus.

  • Related article: "The keys to managing stress and anxiety"

Are you interested in starting a process of psychological therapy?

If you are going through a difficult time and you are looking for professional psychological support, I invite you to contact me.

My name is Paloma Rey Cardona and I am a General Health Psychologist; In my practice you can have child-adolescent or adult therapy services, and we also offer online sessions by video call.

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