How To Stop Ruminating with OCD
Rumination and OCD
This video is a long time coming. Let’s talk about rumination. Do you know what rumination is? I would say most, If not all individuals who struggle with OCD ruminate. The official definition of rumination is “the action of chewing the cud”……
Wait, that’s not it. How about this. “a deep or considered thought about something.” That’s better. We can all be in deep thought from time to time. It can whisk us away from the present moment. It can distract us from noticing the surroundings around us. Some have said that rumination is often considered to be a silent mental health issue. No one can see what’s going on except the person. They often don’t know the harm they may be causing themselves because of this rumination.
But why would thinking something very deeply be an issue? Well, it only tends to be an issue when it actually starts interfering in a person’s life. When it comes to anxiety, rumination is essentially a way for the individual to gain answers and problem solve whatever they’re feeling anxious about. It’s trying to problem solve the future. Trying to problem solve the “what if’s”.
If you think about yourself, are you ever able to actually come up with a good answer to the things you are ruminating about. I would guess the answer is no. Because we think we have a good answer, we react as if we have a good answer, we do behaviors assuming we have a good answer, and in the end it ends up being different than what you thought.
Rumination is a huge part of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Individuals who struggle with this often are looking for certainty. They want to know for sure what they are experiencing is true or not. If there really that type of person or not. If they would really do that thing or not. If that catastrophe in the future is going to happen or not. Rumination is thinking about all these things. Thinking about your specific topic or fear when it comes to your anxiety and OCD. Often rumination is just trying to figure out if what you are experiencing is OCD related or not. It’s problem-solving through what your brain says is a potential problem.
Here is an example: somebody you may experience contamination OCD may attach to door handle. Their brain has attached meaning to this. Here’s the rumination and what my sound like: “ I can’t believe you just touch the door handle. Do you have any people touch the door handle? What if somebody was sick that touched it? Do if you touched your face or no after you touch the door handle? No is probably okay to touch it. But if it’s not okay then I’ll get sick. I get Sick, then I won’t be able to go to work. If I can’t go to work, then how am I going to support my family. You know even though it’s probably fine, you should probably wash your hands just in case.
The person goes to wash their hands.
I know you washed your hands, did you know if you touched your pants afterwards? I know you trust your phone is a something you probably need to wash? How about you just change her clothes just in case. Well I know now you just kept yourself safe, but did you see that your child just touched the door handle. What things did they touch. Maybe need to go ask them, wash their hands change their clothes washed the door handle.
As you can see, this person is problem-solving they are doing just in case behaviors. There trying to think through it and prevent whatever the fear is from happening. Often I see rumination as very automatic. It will throw out these threats to you as quick as it can. If you go down this road and problem solve or think through the situation. You are doing a compulsion.
The compulsions are the things that are keeping you trapped. All your brain knows is that you may have saved yourself from whatever fear it says was going to come your way. It is a liar. You cannot think your way through your fear.
I say don’t engage with rumination. Do not give it any power whatsoever. This is a very tough task. But here are some tips you can use. Making sure you give your brain the same answer every single time it threatens you. It says you hit someone with your car are you thinking through this whole situation. Your answer is maybe I did maybe I didn’t. Some choose to agree with the threat to take the power away. They may say, sure I totally have someone of my car.
I can only imagine the OCD screaming you just gave it that answer, that you agreed with it. Are you sure you actually love your partner? Maybe I do maybe I don’t. Are you attracted to somebody of your same gender? Maybe I am maybe I’m not. Will I harm my child? Maybe I will maybe I won’t.
There is not a topic or theme you cannot use this phrase with. Everybody thinks their special and that their specific topic or fear does not apply. To help you not ruminate, it’s committing to not engage by giving it the same answer every single time. Even if it feels real, even if you feel like this one’s different.
Some choose have different catchphrases. That’s not my thing. Sure man totally. Thank you for your opinion.
These statements need to be followed up with not engaging in the compulsions. The individuals that do the compulsions are not really committed to the maybe maybe not’s that they are saying. Because you cannot say maybe maybe not, and then go wash your hands because you’re just not sure. Or avoid the knife because you’re just not sure. Or go back and check to make sure you did hit a pedestrian because you’re just not sure. Ask for reassurance again because you’re not sure. That is the whole point. You need to be unsure. Being unsure on purpose as a way to stop the rumination.
One of the first parts is recognizing that you’re even ruminating in the first place. You might think about what is my reasoning for thinking through this right now. Am I just genuinely curious, or do I feel this urge for this need to figure out this answer right now. If it’s the urge, you’re not gonna do it, you choose not do it. Is actually your choice. The thoughts will start coming in that’s the automatic part, but you engaging with them is completely your choice. Give yourself that power.
Did you know that I created a very specific course for OCD. It takes you through understanding yourself, the treatment and a way to maintain your progress. We talk about rumination, hierarchies, exposures, writing scripts so much more. There are over 41 videos in this thing. I’ll link it in the description. You can preview you it for free.
Do you ruminate? What do you ruminate about?
Overthinking and OCD
Nathan Peterson, LCSW
OCD can be tricky! I want to provide useful information for your OCD, anxiety, tics, tourette's, BFRBs, and many other anxiety related disorders.