Is catastrophizing ruining your life?

By David Joel Miller.

What is catastrophizing?

Catastrophizing

Catastrophizing.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Catastrophizing is a way of looking at life, always searching for the “worst case” possibilities. In recovery circles, this can be described as having a “magical magnify mind.” There are times when considering the worst possible alternative can protect you from bad life outcomes, other times it can make you miserable. Adopting catastrophizing as your default way of thinking has been tied to pessimism and many mental illnesses.

Wikipedia defines catastrophizing as “Giving greater weight to the worst possible outcome, however unlikely, or experiencing a situation as unbearable or impossible when it is just uncomfortable.”

Catastrophizing and mental health.

Ellis (1962) created the term ‘‘catastrophizing’’ to describe a tendency to magnify a perceived threat and overestimate the seriousness of its potential consequences.

Beck in his work on cognitive behavioral therapy created a list of “cognitive distortions,” which are factors in creating and maintaining some mental illnesses. Recently cognitive therapists, have begun referring to these thinking patterns as “unhelpful thoughts.”

One of these unhelpful thoughts is magnification, a cognitive process in which people who are depressed create exaggerated beliefs which bias their thinking in a negative direction (Beck 1963, 1964.)

When you don’t know what causes bad events, the consequences are magnified. Catastrophizing is an unhelpful way some people use to try to find the causes of bad events in their life and to try to prevent future unpleasant consequences.

Other definitions of catastrophizing.

Catastrophizing involves focusing on the difficulty and negative aspects of a stressor. Catastrophizing is envisaging the worst results of a negative event.

Catastrophizing is an automatic “what if” questioning style, causing an individual to iterate about a particular problem and perceive possible outcomes as threatening (Kendall & Ingram, 1987; Vasey & Borkovec, 1992).

Mental illnesses are connected to catastrophizing.

Many of the things we call mental illnesses lie on a continuum from mild to severe. It’s quite common for people with one mental illness to also show symptoms of other mental illnesses. How a specific mental illness will affect you is also the result of the interaction between that illness and you. Your life experiences, your genetics, your personality, and how you go about thinking about the world, all play roles in your risk for having a particular mental illness and your path towards recovery from that illness. Below is a brief review of some the research about the connections between catastrophizing and mental illnesses.

Chronic pain is made worse by Catastrophizing.

Many studies have found a connection between catastrophizing and disability from chronic pain. Catastrophic thinking in the pain field was defined as ‘‘an exaggerated negative orientation toward pain stimuli and pain experience’’ (Spevak and Buckenmaier 2011.) Focusing on your pain seems to magnify it. Catastrophizing about your pain, imagining all the possible connections between your pain and serious illness, increases the pain’s impact on your life

Stanford Pain Management Center conducted a pilot program which involved a 2-hour class on pain and pain catastrophizing. The class significantly reduced patients catastrophizing about pain. I have to wonder if more information about mental and physical issues wouldn’t reduce people’s worry and result in significantly less catastrophizing.

The connection between chronic pain and catastrophizing is especially strong in the research on fibromyalgia. “Several factors of pain appraisal contribute to the pain experience. The most outstanding ones are pain catastrophizing, fear of pain, and vigilance to pain. In FM patients, pain catastrophizing has been associated with pain intensity and impairment” (Mart´ınez, S´anchez, Mir´o, Medina, & Lami,2011.)

“Among the most widely researched psychological factors in recent years, pain catastrophizing has shown consistent and robust associations with acute and chronic clinical pain as well as experimental pain responses” (Fillingim.)

Panic disorder is fueled by catastrophizing.

“People with panic disorder misinterpret their physical symptoms as catastrophic and indicative of imminent danger, leading to panic attacks” (Ottaviani and Beck 1987.)

Phobias may be created and maintained by catastrophizing.

The pattern of jumping to the most negative consequences, catastrophizing, is common in social phobia, agoraphobia, and specific phobia. In social phobia, people expect to be judged negatively and are on the alert for clues of rejection. This can result in being socially awkward and creating the social rejection they fear. Agoraphobia, the fear of the marketplace, or the fear of being out in public, is characterized by a fear that something bad will happen and the person will not be able to escape or get help. Specific phobias frequently involve overestimating the chances the thing that scares you will be present or will harm you.

Somatic Symptoms and Related Disorders are connected to catastrophizing.

In the past, this was often called Health Anxiety Disorder. Recently this was reorganized and is now considered a group of disorders. Somatic Symptoms Disorder (300.82) involves a focus on one or two symptoms which the patient comes to believe indicate they have a serious undiagnosed medical illness. Illness Anxiety Disorder (300.7) is a constant preoccupation and worry that you will contract a serious illness. Catastrophic thinking plays a role both in creating and in maintaining all the health-related anxiety disorders. This group of disorders frequently involves intrusive, distressing images of being sick or dying.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder involves catastrophizing.

OCD has two main components, intrusive thoughts, and the need to perform rituals to prevent those imagined consequences. These intrusive thoughts are primarily catastrophic in nature. When you continue to imagine worst-case, dire consequences which can only be prevented by your performing some ritual, it becomes hard to resist the impulses.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is connected to catastrophic thinking.

Catastrophic thinking appears to contribute to the creation and worsening of all the trauma and stressor-related disorders. Having experienced a traumatic event, you are more likely to imagine similar events occurring again. Constantly checking your environment for potential danger and then catastrophizing about what you see appears to contribute to the maintenance of PTSD.

Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event develops PTSD. People who habitually practice catastrophic thinking are at increased risk of developing PTSD should they experience a trauma (Bryant, Guthrie, 2005.)

Some studies have reported a connection between catastrophizing and fatigue.

Catastrophizing is often observed in anxiety.

“Chronic worry is known to be a feature associated with most of the anxiety disorders and most specifically with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)” (Brown, Antony, &Barlow,1992).

According to the most recent diagnostic categorization, the cardinal diagnostic feature of GAD is “excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation) … which the individual finds difficult to control” (APA, 2000, p. 476).

Catastrophizing creates Hopelessness Depression.

Hopeless depression is not a specific diagnosis. Counselors see a great many people who have lost hope. Hopelessness and a sense that the future will never be any better are common symptoms reported by people suffering from depression. Even before it reaches the level of clinical depression, a lack of hope and catastrophizing greatly increase the risk that today’s problems will become tomorrow’s depression.

“Catastrophizing (consistently inferring catastrophic consequences resulting from a negative event), has been posited as a specific risk factor for depression” (Abramson et al. 1989).

Paranoia and catastrophizing.

The emotional regulation strategies “blaming others and catastrophizing were positively correlated with paranoia and anxiety” (Westermann, et al., 2013.)

“Worry is a significant concern for patients with paranoia. Worry in paranoia is likely to be caused by similar mechanisms as worry in emotional disorders. The results support the recent trial findings that standard techniques for treating worry in anxiety, suitably modified, are applicable for patients with paranoia” (Startup, et al., 2016.)

Poor sleep is caused by Catastrophizing.

Many research studies have shown direct connections between rumination, catastrophizing, and impaired sleep. Here are a couple of quotes from the research literature.

“Poor sleep quality, including difficulties falling asleep and waking during the night, commonly occur in early adolescence” (Carskadon, 2010).

“Up to 40% of adolescents experience some form of sleep difficulties at some point during adolescence” (Meltzer & Mindell, 2006)

Rumination magnifies your problems.

If your thinking style involves catastrophizing, looking for the worst-case scenarios, try to limit the time you spend considering alternatives. Unfortunately, people who catastrophize also tend to ruminate, going over and over the same material finding ever-increasing awful consequences. If catastrophize and ruminating are destroying your mental health, consider professional help before the problems of daily living become a serious mental illness.

More information about this topic and related subjects is found under Psychology

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Overthinking takes you nowhere.

By David Joel Miller.

Thinking the same thoughts over and over does not lead to insight.

Overthinking

Overthinking.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

In overthinking you get stuck on thinking the same thoughts over and over. To gain insight, you need to think about things from a different perspective. Take a break from your problems, sleep on it overnight, have some fun, and your problem is likely to look different the next time you think about it.

Overthinking is sometimes described as racing thoughts. These racing thoughts are different from the kind of out of control thoughts described in Bipolar Disorder. Overthinking is related to anxiety disorders in that these thoughts look like a hamster in his wheel, running as fast as he can around and around in the same place. In overthinking your thoughts take you nowhere but they do increase your anxiety. The racing thoughts of bipolar take you farther and farther into grandiose beliefs and urges.

Things will change whether you think about them or not.

Whether you think about it or not the weather will change. You can prepare for the weather but worrying about it will neither prevent the storm nor make it worse. Know that, regardless of what you think, the summers and winters will come. Overthinking steals your life.

The time you spend overthinking is time you are not doing.

Living is about the things you do, not the things you think about doing. The best way to prepare for the future is by living today. It’s easy to stay busy thinking about the past, worrying about the future, all the while avoiding taking action in the present.

Don’t believe everything you think.

Sometimes we take our own thinking as evidence for the truth of what we believe. IF something is making you anxious, you need to take a good look at it, and sometimes you need to listen to your gut. Consider however that just because something scares you that does not make it dangerous. Often our preconceived views of things turn out to be wrong. Be careful that you don’t jump to the conclusion and then because you think it; you look for evidence to support that view.

Don’t recruit others to overthink with you.

Group overthinking has been called co-rumination. If every time you get together with your friends, you go over and over the same problems in life, these relationships have moved from being supportive to keeping you stuck in your problems. You don’t need half a dozen people helping you think about how awful things are.

The more baggage you accumulate, the harder it is to move forward.

Do you have a lot of baggage from the past? Do you spend a lot of time taking it out, looking it over and then packing it up again to take it with you into the future? Constantly dwelling on the mistakes and the pain of the past keeps you stuck. Learn life’s lessons but be careful not to carry any more baggage into the future than is absolutely necessary.

Overthinking prevents you from making decisions.

The more you think about something, the harder it may be to decide. Unfortunately, not deciding and not acting are decisions. Don’t let overthinking make your decisions for you by preventing you from ever doing something which might benefit you.

Overthinking destroys your creativity.

Creativity is about new ways of looking at things and new ways of combining them. If you are stuck in overthinking and worry about what the right way to do something is, you will become afraid to take the chances necessary to be truly creative. Overthinking will tell you that there’s only one correct answer and you need to find that answer. Creativity will tell you that there are many possible solutions and the more open you are to those solutions the more creative you will become.

Overthinking tells you there’s only one way to do things.

The longer you think about things more likely you are to doubt each possibility. Overthinking by pointing out the pitfalls of potential decisions takes away your choices. If you want to be truly free, don’t let your worried mind tell you that you shouldn’t make the choices that appeal to you. Often when presented with a choice, our first thought is the correct one. People who are high in test anxiety often find the more they go over their answers and change them, the lower their test score goes. Don’t let overthinking talk you out of the choice that’s right for you.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Are you a Co-ruminator?

By David Joel Miller

What is Co-rumination and how does it affect you?

Teens talking about problems

Teens Talking
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Having friends, positive ones, can be very helpful for your mental health, wellness and recovery. Talking about your problems can be beneficial. This talking through your life problems is a major part of what counselors and therapist do when they use the “talking cure.’ Unfortunately not all talking over your problems is helpful.

We know that rumination, that constant reviewing, and hanging on to your problems, can make things worse. Focus on past difficulties over and over and you are likely to perpetuate your depression. Review repeatedly those things that might happen in the future and you can crank up the levels of anxiety you feel.

One especially problematic form of rumination is when one person enlists another to help them ruminate over their problems. So how can you tell if the time you spend with a friend or supporter is helping you work through and understand your problems or is this repeated discussion making things worse?

One definition of co-rumination is the excessive sharing of problems with peers. It has been seen and studied in those with poor relationships with caregivers and attachment disorders. Those who have been abused or traumatized are more likely to co-ruminate but anyone can become a co-ruminator.

Those who co-ruminate develop more not less mental health issues.

Sharing your problems with someone else should help you feel better, not worse. Co-rumination is not just a matter of talking about your problems with someone else. It also is about how frequently, intensely and how much time you spend on sharing those problems.

If the time you spend talking with someone about your life problems does not seem to make you feel better than you may be engaged in a process called co-ruminations.

Here are some ways you can tell if the time spent discussing problems is co-rumination.

You and a friend frequently talk about your problems.

If the bulk of the time you and this friend spend together is talking about the problems of one or both of you then you are drifting into a co-rumination mode. Ask yourself do you ever talk about happy things? Do you have anything in common other than your discussion of problems? Do you talk about the same problems over and over?

Good friends can help each other through things. But if all you have in common is the problems then this is not much of a relationship.

What happens if you run out of problems to talk about? Do you share your day or do you revisit some past problem saturated conversation?

Co-rumination is talking about the same problems over and over.

If you find you are stuck on one problem and every conversation returns to that problem then this is co-rumination. Some co-ruminators take turns discussing their problems. You know before the conversation starts that when your turn comes you will be expected to revisit the problem you two always talk about.

Should you ever try to move the conversation forward to some new topic you can count on your partner in co-rumination to remind you of the time your problem occurred.

You encourage each other to talk about problems.

Do you frequently ask your friend questions about their problems? If every conversation turns into revisiting problems you are engaged in co-rumination. Certainly, it is good to have a friend you know will listen when you have a problem but be cautious if all they ever want to hear about are your problems. Good friends also share happy times.

You focus on negative feelings and what is wrong with you.

If the only topics of conversation becomes what is wrong, you are not supporting each other in being well. You and your friend should be able to switch to a dissuasion of what is going well in your life. Too much focus on the negative will make you increasingly depressed or anxious and you will find it harder to have any positive thoughts.

Talk about what something meant not what happened.

Co-ruminating talk is heavy on why and how-come questions. It is not about revisiting the story and what happened but involves trying to figure out what is wrong with you that these things keep happening. Co-rumination is heavy on blame talk and whose fault things are and short on ways to cope and move forward.

Co-rumination can be a group activity.

While co-rumination most often happens when two best friends begin to spend all their time together going over and over their respective problems it can become a group activity. Especially among teen or preteen girls. In that life stage, we see groups whose primary activity together and on social media is endlessly rehashing each other’s problems.

If all the posts on your social media page are about your problems and your friend’s problems, you have a problem sustaining relationships.

More posts on this topic are under the category Rumination.  Anxiety and Depression.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Can’t make up your mind? Indecision, rumination and depression.

By David Joel Miller.

Indecision, rumination, and depression.

Hard to choose

Can’t make a choice?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

If you can’t make up your mind it may be because you are depressed. Indecision is a common result of depression and certain types of rumination ramp this symptom up.

When you are depressed it becomes incredibly difficult to decide. Even a little depression can make decisions difficult and a significant level of depression can make decision-making impossible. How you are thinking about things, especially rumination, makes this indecision worse.

Depression impairs decision-making.

Depressed people tend to rely on others to make their decisions for them. If you find you don’t trust yourself to make a decision and you expect someone else to decide for you, it is time to take a look at this.

Depressed people tend to brood about things, turn them over and over in their head. The thinking part bogs down. The tendency is to look for global abstract reasons. What is wrong with me? Why does this keep happening to me? What you need to be asking yourself is, how you are going to get this done.

Depressed people stop trusting themselves. They do not use their intuition; that gut level information based on experience. When depressed do you stop trusting your judgment and start over-thinking everything?

Many of the symptoms of depression involve reduced ability to make decisions. When depressed there is less rational reasoning coupled with low activity levels. Can’t do and can’t decide defines depression. There is also less information gathering going on. The result of all this avoiding making decisions and self-doubt is an increase in negative emotions. Increasing negative emotions creates more severe depression and so the cycle goes.

Indecision and low self-esteem.

Indecisiveness has been linked to low self-esteem. Can’t decide you feel bad about yourself. Feel bad about yourself you will find it hard to decide. The result if indecision is more procrastination. One culprit in this indecision, low self-esteem connection is that ancient enemy perfectionism.

Perfectionists have trouble deciding.

If you are one of those people who are trying to be perfect, a largely neurotic trait, you will never make it. The search for the perfect prevents what can be.

This human fallacy, the search for abstract universal answers, leads to the wrong conclusions. It is not “why do bad things happen to me” or anyone else. The questions you should be asking is what are you going to do now and how will you do it.

We should note here that researchers have concluded that not having a good vocabulary to describe what and how you are feeling can result in an increased risk of depression. You need to have words for the feelings to begin to work on the consequences.

Rumination does more than result in an increased risk of depression and more difficulty making decisions. Depressed people who do decide are less committed and more likely to have difficulty following through on the course of action they have decided on.

The solution to all this indecision, rumination, depression, resulting in more indecision trap?

Gather all the information you can. Make the best decision you can and then stick with it until contrary information comes in. Stop looking for global reasons and look for the facts in this specific instance.

If indecision is plaguing you or you feel like simple decisions are beyond your ability consider getting some professional help.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Emotional Avalanches and Feelings Landslides

By David Joel Miller

Do your emotions sometimes just sweep you away?

Rumination

Rumination
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Everyone has ups and downs in life. There are times you are up and times you are down. Those ups and downs can come slowly or they can come quickly. For some people, those changes in their emotional landscape suddenly and unexpectedly sweep them away. There may be things you are doing that are triggering these emotional avalanches.

In your journey of life, there may be times when the trip is mostly uphill; things go as planned and in a positive direction. People who seem to be able to keep their emotional journeys on an even keel have that ability to regulate their emotions and keep them in bounds. Not everyone has that option.

If you travel in emotionally rough territory you may have a lot more ups and downs. The key in those times is to keep your eye on the distant goal, pace yourself and not let those trips downhill define your whole journey. The more the ups and downs in life, the steeper the emotional terrain, the faster those emotions may come at you. To surmount tough emotional terrain you need to have your climbing skills well perfected. Sometimes those emotional regulations skills just are not enough.

If your emotional life is mostly flat terrain, few ups and downs, a professional might think of you as having or experiencing good emotional regulation. Some people seem to be able to find the flattest path through life even in hilly terrain.

If you emotional journey has more than the expected ups and downs we professionals might think of this as you having high emotional liability. You emotions shift in repose to things that happen and the faster things happen in your life the faster your mood shifts.

Please do not jump to the conclusion that people who are emotionally very labile have Bipolar Disorder. While people with Bipolar disorder do experience times of mood shifts, I think of their mood shifts as less related to the life events, the emotionally hilly terrain, and more related to an internal journey.

Lots of people have emotional ups and downs; some of them out of control, and these people do not all have Bipolar disorder.

Some people are just walking along and out of nowhere, so it appears, the emotional ground falls out from under them.

One cause of these emotional avalanches is a human habit called rumination. All humans think about the things that they have done and the things that have happened in the past. The way in which you think about these things is what determines the result of this rethinking. In other posts, I have and will talk more about the ways in which rumination can destroy your emotional health, create or increase depression or anxiety.

In an emotional avalanche, the person begins to think about something and that though begins to grow the more they think about it. There may have been a trigger that brought the thought into their mind or a random memory may have been the trigger.

We suspect that those who do non-suicidal self-injury, cutting for short, are particularly prone to these emotional landslides. Once the thought occurs, any negative self-evaluative thought will do here, it becomes increasingly difficult to stop that emotional mountain from falling on you.

These emotional landslides are the cause of lots of sudden impulsive behaviors. Can’t get that thought out of your head? You might choose to drink over it. Someone else might cut on an arm or leg to distract themselves from that thought. This inability to stop the thought avalanche once it starts explains a lot of impulsive behavior better than either long-term anxiety or depression.

Being sad and then beginning to brood (ruminate) over that sadness is a strong predictor of emotional avalanches. Productive thought about past events is about how can I change that, what will I do next. Unproductive rumination is about why me and how could this happen to me.

Believing that a past stress or trauma means there is something wrong with you leads to global beliefs about yourself. That you will never be better and things can’t change. Asking how you will get past this results and create a desire to learn the skills you will need to be successful in life.

If you find that sometimes out of nowhere your emotions carry you away in a bad way, take another look at your thinking process and see if you have developed the habit of ruminating, thinking about something bad in your life over and over. Make sure you do not spend time with friends in group rumination. Having a support system can be helpful, hanging out with a group of co-ruminators can really bring you down.

You might want to check out the other posts on counselorssoapbox about rumination. There are more posts on this topic to come.

If you experience emotional avalanches that are causing you problems consider seeing a professional counselor or therapist for help. It is not “just you” and you can learn ways to have a happy productive life.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

9 Ways to stop unhelpful rumination.

By David Joel Miller.

Do you find your brain full of negative unhelpful thoughts?

Rumination

Rumination
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Sometimes it feels like our own brain is out to get us. Sometimes it is. If you have unhelpful thoughts and then you sit and chew on those thoughts, thinking them over and over, those thoughts are likely to try to get you.

That pattern of not being able to get a thought out of your head is referred to as rumination and it can trigger all kinds of negative behavior. Rumination is a trigger for cutting (non-suicidal self-injury) drinking and drug use, depression and anxiety and I suspect a lot of other mental health issues. How do you stop unhelpful rumination before it creates some serious issues?

Here are some ways to stop those unwanted, unhelpful thoughts.

Tell unhelpful thoughts to stop.

If you have kids that are doing something they shouldn’t, many parents would tell those kids to “knock that off.” Learn to tell your unhelpful thoughts to stop also. It takes time and it takes practice but repeated enough you can train your brain to stop thinking about something that is not helpful.

This soft mental yelling at unhelpful thoughts is one form of thought stopping. There are other methods. Use the thought stopping technique that works best for you.

Recognize that thoughts, like many people’s “voices” sometimes lie.

Ruminations like to tell you that the problem is you. The will try to convince you that you are no good, the world is no good and things can never get better. This is not true.

No one is totally no good. You have some things about you that are good and you can learn to do better and practice positive skills. Do not give in to the negative thoughts.

Reduce unhelpful thoughts by using positive affirmations.

What you tell yourself comes to be. Tell yourself that you will keep trying and you will do better. Develop a list of things you will tell yourself when these ruminator-thoughts attack. Make sure you are telling yourself the truth.

Do not tell yourself that you are so smart you know all the answers. No one is that smart. Do tell yourself you know many things and are capable of learning many more.

Develop a gratitude list to increase helpful thoughts.

Are there any things in your life that you are grateful for? When you are really anxious or depressed it may be hard to think of any. Work on this gratitude list. Keep it handy like a fire extinguisher to put out the flames of these ruminations.

Have friends and supporters suggest things for this list. Write it down. The brain tends to believe the things you write down are important. When the unhelpful thoughts attack, whip out your gratitude list and beat them back by reading off all the things you really have to be thankful for.

Problem Solve so you don’t get stuck in the problem.

Think about how you will handle things better next time, not why you made the mistake this time. Not good at making friends? Avoid asking yourself why no one likes you and instead ask yourself how you can become better at making friends.

Ask others how they solved this problem. Do not think that because you are unskilled in an area that you will never be good at that skill. Talk with the experts, those who have been doing something well for a long time. Get a coach, seek out the “old timers” that everyone thinks are “naturals.” They will tell you that becoming a natural took years of effort.

Once you find out that others have had the very same problem you have and have learned to overcome anyway, you will discover that you can do this too.

Maintain a positive attitude to reduce unhelpful thoughts.

Look for the positive not the negative. What you look for you will find. Become an expert on positive thinking and you will discover that those who believe in themselves do better.

To start with most people find it hard to see the positive possibilities. Do not beat yourself up if in the early stages you slip back into negative thinking from time to time. Not able to be positive as much as you should? See the next hint.

Increase your positive thoughts.

Being a positive person takes lots and lots of practice. Early in life, it is common for you to see others who succeed and think there is something wrong with you because you can’t be perfect.

Learn to be just a little bit more positive each and every day and eventually the things you could only dream of doing become the normal for you.

Try these hints. Practice them daily and you will be pleasantly surprised with how much less you will be ruminating about the negative and how often you will see that glimmer of hope shining in your direction.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Is Rumination Chewing up your mental health?

By David Joel Miller

What is Rumination and why is rumination destroying your mental wellness?

Rumination

Rumination – Chewing your emotional cud
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Rumination, that habit of turning things over and over in your mind, has a lot of impact on your mental health. The more we learn about rumination the more seriously we find it is affecting people’s mental health.

Various authors have suggested alternative definitions for rumination as applied to mental health. Rumination means, to me, that something is bothering you and you keep turning that thing over and over in your mind. Reynolds (2014) describes rumination as a “maladaptive form of self-reflection.”

In rumination the focus is on yourself, judging yourself and how you reacted to the event, rather than in learning from those events. For the ruminator, if things went wrong this must mean that you are bad, people treated you badly or that this is the result of some personal weakness that will continue to hold you back.

Casey Truffo refers to this as “chewing on the thing that is eating you.” The result is that rather than finding a solution to your problem or moving forward, you stay stuck in your upset over these things.

Excess rumination has been linked to depression, anxiety, stress and other mental illnesses.

Thinking about the past and the future can be helpful. This review of life can aid us in recognizing errors and learning from experience. It can also be part of planning for the future. What goes wrong in ruminating is that the focus shifts from the facts, this is what did or may happen, to looking at the feelings. I could not stand it if this or that happened. Or you may be saying this is too painful to bear, is not fair and so on.

Rumination is about judging the rightness and wrongness of things. It involves beliefs that things will not be well and looking for who to blame. Most often this involves beliefs that the reason something bad happened is because you did something “wrong.” Ruminating about the future includes beliefs that you are powerless and helpless if things happen that you do not foresee and can’t control.

This pattern of ruminating on the past and certain negative possible futures seems to me to also be involved in maintaining and aggravating the adjustment and stress-related disorders. Intrusive thoughts become worse the more you focus on them. Looking for possible crises can result in being overwhelmed and living in a world full of crises.

There is a strong connection between ruminating and alcohol abuse. Ruminators are most likely to binge drink in response to their negative self-thoughts. Those who are frequent Ruminators are also more likely to have anger management problems.

Ruminating is also an aggravating factor in eating disorders and is hugely connected with non-suicidal self-injury. Rumination can damage relationships and is related to adult attachment style issues.

Dwelling on your negative thoughts, your reviewing of past failures keeps you stuck.

Rumination has been linked to negative automatic thoughts. Think negative thoughts often enough and those thoughts are practiced to the point of becoming automatic. Practice thinking that everything is wrong, awful and horrible, and will always be that way, and you have created a negative destiny.

Rumination is that annoying advertising jingle that keeps playing in your head. Think about those negative thoughts enough and they may be stuck in there forever.

Ruminating about the past cranks up the depression feelings.

The questions most often asked by ruminators are “Why?” and “What if?” Continuing to think about why did this happen, it should not have happened, it is horrible, awful, that this happened, results in ever-increasing feelings of sadness and depression.

Ruminating about the future is a major cause of Anxiety Disorders.

Repeated thoughts of what if? Rehearsing all the possible things that could go wrong, is a good way to anxious yourself up.

The belief that you “should” ruminate, that repeatedly turning over these past experiences or future possibilities are necessary, maintains the rumination and results in ever-increasing spirals of negative emotions. Your own belief that you need to figure this out keeps you stuck. Some things can’t be figured out or do not need to be analyzed. Dwelling on your negative thoughts, your reviewing of past failures keeps you trapped. Acceptance rather than rumination may be the best option.

Co-rumination.

Some ruminators bring others in on their rumination process. The term co-rumination has been coined to refer to times when a relationship between two people exists primarily so they can both ruminate together about each other’s problems. Spend all your time ruminating and others in your life either have to join in the negative thought game or find a way to escape the negativity. Ruminating may drive family and friends away. Those who are left will be as negative as you.

How this is like and how it is different from therapy will be a part of a future post on co-rumination.

Do you ruminate? Are you stuck on turning those thoughts of past mistakes over and over in your head? Now is the time to break the rumination cycle and start a new happy and mentally healthy life.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.