The effects of depressive rumination

The effects of depressive rumination

What are the effects that continuous rumination has on the individual? Attention tends to focus on past losses and mistakes made, leading to negative comparisons and comparisons between oneself and others and to making devaluation judgments towards oneself. Difficulties occur in decision making and problem solving, pessimism dominates, there is poor cognitive flexibility and interpersonal difficulties and all this contributes to maintaining and increasing negative mood.  


Advertising message Once activated, depressive rumination has consequences both cognitively and emotionally and behaviorally. The individual is induced into a negative emotional state characterized by a sense of discouragement, persistent avoidance of situations and use of afinalistic questions such as “why do only negative things happen to me? Why do I always feel so sad? What have I done wrong to deserve this? ” (Watkins, 2016).

On a cognitive level, rumination involves: poor problem solving skills, reduced concentration, distortion of judgment patterns, weakening of cognitive performance and increased stress (Lyubomirsky and Tkach, 2004).

Regarding the problem solving ability, in rumination one is led to ask general and abstract questions rather than specific and concrete questions and this, in addition to reducing the ability to find practical solutions, increases the perception of a sense of powerlessness and the feeling of being ” without hope “(Watkins and Barcaia, 2001).

Compared to the lowering of cognitive performance, linked to the reduced ability to concentrate, this can interfere with the performance of work performances and more generally with the performance of daily activities. This occurs because ruminative thoughts tend to intrude into the occupations that are taking place, involving both a reduction in the amount of information that can be processed in parallel and a reduction in the speed of the task which has, as a consequence, the depletion of direct attention resources towards the specific task and the decrease in cognitive performance (Baddley and Hitch, 1994).

Let us now turn to the distortion of cognitive judgment patterns (Lyubomirsky and Tkach, 2004) characterized by an increase in the memory of negative autobiographical episodes (Lyubomirsky, Caldwell and Nolen-Hoeksema, 1998), intensification of negative thinking about the future (Lavender and Watkins, 2004 ) and increasing negative interpretations in terms of global self-assessment (Rimes and Watkins, 2005). The subject is led to blame himself for the problems, he considers himself incapable, unfortunate and / or lacking in some normal skills. These judgment schemes, acting as keys to understanding reality, have the effect of producing constant experiences of deflection of the mood tone which reactivate rumination in a self-perpetuating cycle.

Finally, a final effect of repetitive thinking on a cognitive level is the increase in stress, in turn related to physical health problems. Indeed, prolonging the psychological and physiological arousal that accompanies stress produces a high activation of the autonomous system, in particular of blood pressure, which, by prolonging negative emotions, affects the level of stress (Gerin et al., 2006).

Advertising message On an emotional level, depressive rumination involves a worsening of mood, sadness, a sense of desperation and also of other emotions, such as shame, guilt and anger, especially directed towards oneself. The person tends to feel more helpless, misunderstood and alone and this is associated with a worsening of negative beliefs about himself, the world and the future, Beck’s so-called “cognitive triad”.

On the behavioral level, the individual tends more to isolate himself, to procrastinate and to be inactive (Rainone and Mancini, 2018).

Avoidance arises from the desire to want to meditate on one’s own problems in order to find a solution. In reality what happens is that, in addition to not taking concrete action to solve problems, rumination minimizes the distracting stimuli that could lead to interrupting this process. This has the paradoxical effect of bringing the person to focus attention on himself, keeping the mood depressed and increasing rumination which becomes a potential cause and consequence of avoidance (Carver and Scheier, 1981).

Regarding the reduction of motivation and the inhibition of instrumental behavior, the individual following the focus on depressive symptoms is led to think that he does not have strategies useful for solving problems or that he is no longer able to feel pleasure in carrying out daily activities. and this, consequently, pushes him not to engage in constructive and adaptive activities (Lyubomirski and Tkach, 2004).

With respect to social relationships, rumination can be associated both with the tendency to forget friends and professional commitments and with the difficulty in adequately taking care of one’s own person, with the result, in both cases, of a worsening of coping skills and an increase in the risk of failure that maintains and worsens the depressive state (Seligman, 1975). In fact, the rumor can struggle to remain attentive in a relational exchange because of the constant interference produced by the rumination itself or can, through his pessimistic and plaintive style, generate negative responses of estrangement and rejection by other people (Papageorgiou and Wells, 2008 ). Furthermore, the fear of being abandoned leads to trying to avoid social situations, creating a paradoxical effect, which is exactly what we fear comes true.

The set of these results therefore seems to confirm that depressive rumination is a dysfunctional strategy for regulating emotions associated with cognitive, emotional and behavioral dysfunctions that contribute to the maintenance and exacerbation of negative feelings (Daches et al., 2010).