Of course, reflective and/or deliberate rumination are not always bad, and can even help you learn from the things you’ve experienced. But as licensed psychotherapist Babita Spinelli, L.P. tells mindbodygreen, when rumination turns intrusive or brooding, you can think of it like “being on a hamster wheel of a negative thought patterns, creating anxiety, phobias, OCD, and depression.”
And from there, according to neuroscientist Tara Swart, M.D., Ph.D., rumination can actually lead to self-fulfilling prophecies, in which we subconsciously confirm and repeat the same negative thoughts and feelings over and over again. “The more we ruminate on these thoughts, the more we embed brain pathways that hold these as true,” Swart previously told mindbodygreen.
As you might imagine, a nasty rumination habit can take a major toll on your mental health. One 2020 analysis2 of existing rumination research has shown that ruminating can lead to worsened mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, psychosis, insomnia, and impulsive behaviors.
It’s also been found to magnify and prolong both bad moods and the body’s stress response, negatively impact problem-solving, and even interfere with therapy and psychological interventions.