Many individuals with anxiety disorders struggle with what we call compulsive rumination. Compulsive rumination is excessive analytical thinking about a thought, action, image, memory, or feeling. It’s also referred to as getting stuck in thought loops, going down rabbit holes, spiraling, obsessing, over-thinking, over-analyzing, excessive worry, and more.

A key part of therapy is learning to identify when an intrusive worry thought becomes compulsive rumination. The initial thought that provokes the fear response is not something we can control. It’s just our brain doing what it is designed to do; think. So if I am going for a walk and suddenly notice my body feels weird and have the thought that it’s cancer, this is the initial intrusive worry thought. We don’t have to do anything about that thought because it’s out of our control.

Every thought after that about having cancer is likely compulsive rumination. This includes analyzing if it really is cancer, reviewing how I could possibly have gotten cancer, worrying about what will happen to me in the future, mentally scanning my body for symptoms; and generally trying to figure it out and solve future problems that haven’t happened yet. Rumination is something we can control, which is why it is categorized as a compulsion. And we know compulsions do not work and are not necessary, so we have to stop.

Therapy works to help individuals with reducing and eliminating compulsive rumination. For more information on rumination, check out Michael Greenberg’s articles:

Stay Brave! -The OCD MN Team