Study Shows That If You’ve Been Ruminating, It’s Likely Been Worsening Your Social Anxiety

Have you ever spent a considerable amount of time pondering past events, thinking about what you could have changed, what happened as a result of the event, how you felt after the event and more? Rumination is defined on Very Well Mind as,  “An unhealthy compulsion to repeatedly think about past events and mull them over.”

Many times, rumination can feel like you’re doing the right thing – by reflecting on past events, it feels like you are trying to work out a solution because the reality of the situation is difficult to bear. Unfortunately, rumination does the exact opposite – it takes away your time from the present moment and it can spiral you into a depression.

Some mental illnesses involve rumination, and social anxiety disorder (SAD) is one of them. People with SAD often worry about acting or appearing very anxious, which may cause them to feel embarrassed in front of others. As a result, they often avoid social situations that give them anxiety so that their worst fear doesn’t come true. A 2014 study conducted by researchers from Stanford University, the University of California Berkeley, and Temple University sought to explore rumination and its effects on those with SAD; 75 adults with the disorder participated in the study and were examined both before and after cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treatment for rumination, reappraisal, and other SAD symptoms. Results from the study found that the higher a person’s scores were for rumination, the higher their social anxiety was – leaving researchers to conclude that the more you mull over things, the worse you’re actually making your disorder’s symptoms.

What should you do instead? Practice mindfulness – each time you catch yourself going over a particular scenario again, again, and, well, again – ask yourself, “is this helping me live in the present moment right now?” If it’s not, gently accept the thought and then move along. If the thought comes up again, repeat the question. Yes, this seems a bit redundant, but you are gently and self-compassionately training your mind to think in a healthier way. It takes time, but it’s well worth it. This type of act is from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which can become an essential part of your treatment program.

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