Rumination — thinking about the causes and consequences of depressing events — is common in depression.
However, simply realising that you don’t have to ruminate can be liberating, new research suggests.
When people learned to reduce how much they ruminated, 80% had recovered after six months (including 10 weeks of therapy).
Professor Roger Hagen, who led the research, said:
“Anxiety and depression give rise to difficult and painful negative thoughts.
Many patients have thoughts of mistakes, past failures or other negative thoughts.
Metacognitive therapy addresses thinking processes.”
One of the problems in depression is that people…
“…think too much, which MCT [metacognitive therapy] refers to as ‘depressive rumination’.
Rather than ruminating so much on negative thoughts, MCT helps patients to reduce negative thought processes and get them under control.”
Taking control of your thoughts is an important part of modern cognitive therapies.
Professor Hagen said:
“Instead of reacting by repeatedly ruminating and thinking ‘how do I feel now?’ you can try to encounter your thoughts with what we call ‘detached mindfulness.’
You can see your thoughts as just thoughts, and not as a reflection of reality.
Most people think that when they think a thought, it must be true.
For example, if I think that I’m stupid, this means I must be stupid.
People strongly believe that their thoughts reflect reality.”
Many patients who took part in the study were pleasantly surprised, said Professor Hagen:
“The patients come in thinking they’re going to talk about all the problems they have and get to the bottom of it, but instead we try to find out how their mind and thinking processes work.
You can’t control what you think, but you can control how you respond to what you think.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology (Hagen et al., 2017).