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Rumination (cognitive process)

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Rumination is a (cognitive process) sometimes a way of responding to stress that involves repetitively and passively focusing thinking about the symptoms of distress, its possible causes and consequences.[1]

Rumination is more common in people who are pessimistic, neurotic, and who have negative attributional styles. The tendency to ruminate is stable over time and serves as a significant risk factor for clinical depression. Not only are habitual ruminators more likely to become depressed, but experimental studies have demonstrated that people who are induced to ruminate experience greater depressed mood.[2] There is also evidence that rumination is linked to general anxiety, post traumatic stress, binge drinking, eating disorders, and self-injurious behavior.[3]

Rumination was originally believed to predict the duration of depressive symptoms. In other words, ruminating about problems was presumed to be a form of memory rehearsal which was believed to actually lengthen the experience of depression. The evidence now suggests that although rumination contributes to depression, it is not necessarily correlated with the duration of symptoms.[4]

Rumination is similar to worry except rumination focuses on bad feelings and experiences from the past, whereas worry is concerned over potential bad events in the future. Both rumination and worry are associated with anxiety and other negative emotional states.

Measurement Edit

The tendency to ruminate can be assessed with the Ruminative Responses Scale of the Response Styles Questionnaire.[5] On this measure, people are asked to indicate how often they engage in 22 ruminative thoughts or behaviors when they feel sad or blue.

Sex differences Edit

According to Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, women tend to ruminate when they are depressed, whereas men tend to distract themselves. This difference in response style was proposed to explain the higher rates of depression in women compared to men.[6] Researchers have confirmed the greater likelihood of rumination in women, though the prediction that men are more likely to distract themselves has not been consistently supported.[7]

Healthy self-disclosure Edit

Although rumination is generally unhealthy and associated with depression, thinking and talking about one's feelings can be beneficial under the right conditions. According to Pennebaker, healthy self-disclosure can reduce distress and rumination when it leads to greater insight and understanding about the source of one's problems.[8] Thus, when people share their feelings with others in the context of supportive relationships, they are likely to experience growth. When people repetitively ruminate and dwell on the same problem without making progress, they are likely to experience depression.

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. Nolen-Hoeksema, S., Wisco, B. E., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). Rethinking rumination. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 400-424.
  2. Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Morrow, J. (1993). Effects of rumination and distraction on naturally occurring depressed mood. Cognition and Emotion, 7, 561-570.
  3. Nolen-Hoeksema, S., Wisco, B. E., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). Rethinking rumination. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 400-424.
  4. Nolen-Hoeksema, S., Wisco, B. E., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). Rethinking rumination. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 400-424.
  5. Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (1991). Responses to depression and their effects on the duration of the depressive episode. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 100, 569–582
  6. Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (1987). Sex differences in unipolar depression: Evidence and theory. Psychological Bulletin, 101, 259-282.
  7. Strauss, J., Muday, T., McNall, K., & Wong, M. (1997). Response Style Theory revisited: Gender differences and stereotypes in rumination and distraction. Sex Roles, 36, 771-792.
  8. Pennebaker, J. W. (1989). Confession, inhibition, and disease. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 22. pp. 211-244). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.


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