Are You Thinking Too Much?


– Carolyn Moriarty, LCPC


Overthinking, otherwise known as rumination, describes the act of actively thinking about a situation in an attempt to understand it from every side. People often ruminate because it provides some them with some feeling of “control” over a situation in which they have none.

In reality, rumination has quite the opposite effect. Dwelling on concerns or memories without will not spontaneously produce a satisfying resolution or sense of closure. It only serves to prolong and intensify negative emotions and increase stress levels. Over the long-term, it can contribute to the development or maintenance of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.


Types of rumination:

  • Anxious rumination:
    This type of rumination tends to focus on hypothetical, future-oriented scenarios. The concept of “worrying as a means of solving a problem” describes anxious rumination.

  • Depressive rumination:
    Depressive rumination tends to to be past-focused, as it involves replaying past events and getting stuck in negative memories or regrets. An individual may dwell on perceived failures, mistakes or negative experiences without ever reaching a satisfying resolution or finding an answer..
  • Reflection
    Not all forms of ruminations are necessarily negative. Self-reflection is the process of looking inward to examine one’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It involves introspection and contemplation about one’s own actions, beliefs, values, and goals.


Reduce Rumination

People who ruminate often find it challenging to break free from their repetitive thought patterns. They may ruminate for extended periods, which can interfere with daily functioning.  Listed below are some cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based interventions that can help reduce rumination and foster healthier thought patterns.

  • Awareness: Recognizing and identifying emotions as they arise within oneself. This involves being mindful of one’s feelings and understanding their underlying causes.
  • Reflection: Engaging in self-reflection to gain insight into the meaning and significance of emotions. This may involve exploring the triggers, past experiences, or personal beliefs that contribute to specific emotional reactions.
  • Acceptance: Acknowledging and accepting one’s emotions without judgment or suppression. It involves allowing oneself to experience and express emotions without trying to resist or control them.
  • Problem-solving: Identifying and addressing the underlying issues or challenges that may be causing distress.
  • Integration: Incorporating emotional experiences into one’s overall sense of self and personal growth. This means integrating the lessons learned from emotional experiences and using them to inform future emotional responses and behavior.
  • Self-Care: Engaging in activities or experiences that allow for the release of pent-up emotions. This can include engaging in physical exercise, talking to a trusted friend or therapist, or engaging in creative outlets like writing or art.



If we hold an unconscious belief that we have ultimate control over past or future concerns assume that we have over our lives, any inability to influence these circumstances can lead to despair . From this perspective, the impetus behand rumination—and all the negative emotions that come along with it—is not necessarily about the way things currently are, but rather from the belief that things could and should be different.

In order to avoid this unnecessary suffering, we must let go of any ideas about the way we wished things could be and instead accept the way that we are in the present moment. Once we accept our reality (past or present) without judgement, we are better able to see things for what they are. This allows us to shift the behaviors that we control and take steps towards the fulfillment of our goals and values.




Seeking Mental Health Support

If you believe you could benefit from understanding more about your symptoms or concerns, consider scheduling an appointment with Chicago Counseling Center. Our therapists can provide guidance, support, and strategies tailored to your specific needs. Meet our team to learn more!

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