Do you often feel as though you can’t shut your mind off? Are you constantly dwelling on things that are beyond your control? Do your friends and family accuse you of overthinking every decision you make?
Understanding Substance Abuse
Finding yourself unable to control intrusive, repetitive, and generally negative thoughts is referred to as rumination. Rumination often starts off as genuine problem-solving or planning but then veers into simply dwelling on feelings of sadness, anger, worry, or inadequacy. It creates a mindset that leaves you feeling frustrated and “stuck” in a holding pattern instead of being confident and in control of your future.
Why Rumination Increases a Person’s Addiction Risk
Rumination is often associated with depression and anxiety disorders—two mental health conditions that increase a person’s risk of developing a substance use disorder. The link between rumination and depression is particularly strong. A study published in 2005 by the American Psychological Association found that ruminators are four times more likely to develop depression as non-ruminators.
It is estimated that 20% of adults who suffer from depression or anxiety disorders also meet the criteria for a substance use disorder. This rate of substance abuse is nearly three times what is found in the general population.
Often, substance abuse is a way for people who are prone to rumination to self-medicate the symptoms that are related to their poor mental health. For example, someone who struggles with intrusive thoughts about social situations and how they are perceived by others may drink excessively at a party to make themselves feel more relaxed. Alcohol temporarily quiets their thoughts—and the initial benefits of this coping mechanism can be hard to resist.
Although the media often portrays addiction as something that’s easy to identify, it’s important to note that substance use disorders are progressive illnesses that tend to develop over an extended period of time. Our anxious partygoer may start to develop a tolerance to alcohol after drinking heavily for several months, which means they’ll need to drink more to achieve the same relaxing effects. As their consumption increases, their body may become physically dependent on alcohol, and they may start to experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and fatigue. Eventually, they may start to believe that they only feel “normal” when they’re drunk—and continue to drink regardless of the problems alcohol consumption may be creating for their health, relationships, career, or finances.
How to Address Rumination
If you find yourself struggling with rumination, here are some tips that can help.
- Find healthy ways to distract yourself. The easiest way to deal with rumination is to find a distraction that will break your thought loop. Watch a funny movie, read a good book, call a friend, get some exercise, or spend some time engaged in a favorite hobby.
- Question the validity of your thoughts. In some cases, your thoughts may not be rational or logical. If you are worrying about a small mistake you may have made, ask yourself how much this issue matters in the grand scheme of things. If your mistake isn’t going to have any repercussions in a week, month, or year, it’s time to let it go.
- Identify your triggers. If you’re prone to rumination, it’s likely that there are certain situations that tend to spark these negative thoughts. For example, you might find yourself ruminating more often when you’re tired, under a lot of stress, or spending more time than normal with people who engage in toxic relationship behaviors. Knowing what sparks your problems with rumination can help you find ways to cope more effectively.
- Reject the idea of perfectionism. Rumination is often linked to perfectionism and unrealistic goals. Remind yourself that everyone faces obstacles and makes mistakes—even people who don’t have substance use disorders.
- Focus on what you can control. If your rumination is centered on times when you believe you were wronged by someone else, it’s important to remember that you can’t control the actions of others. Holding on to your negative feelings only hurts you. Moving on, even if the other person hasn’t apologized or tried to make amends, is the only way you can heal.
- Take action. People who are prone to rumination often find it difficult to take decisive action to solve their problems. They worry about making the “wrong” decision or lack confidence in their ability to make good choices. However, you deserve to be in control of your life. Taking concrete steps to solve your problem will always be preferable to ruminating and continuing to put your mental health at risk.
St. Joseph’s Is Ready to Help
At St. Joseph Institute for Addiction, we believe that healing the mind, body, and spirit is an essential part of building the foundation for a lasting recovery. Clients at our Pennsylvania residential addiction treatment center receive care that is personalized to meet their unique needs—including addressing problems with rumination that could leave them vulnerable to relapse. Contact our admissions representatives today to learn more about how we can help you or your loved one take the first steps towards a brighter future.