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Old 03-11-2013, 03:23 PM   #1
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Default Ruminating

When I was in my early 20s, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It was so bad at the time that I was having regular panic attacks and my physical health was affected (my hair was falling out, my gums were bleeding and I was throwing up several times a day). I was working at a very high stress job (probation officer) and was dealing with some particularly nasty out comes (death threats, pipe bomb in my car, shots fired at me) after a routine search I conducted yielded a large shipment of drugs. At the height of my problems, I was having panic attacks several times a day. I finally ended up in a psych hospital for a few days after my mother found me curled up on the living room floor, bawling, unable to stop and unable to form a coherent sentence.

They stabilized me in the hospital, mainly with tranquilizers. When I was released, I went through several weeks of group therapy, which included various coping mechanisms including bio feedback. I also quit my job and changed my career path. I have had only a very few panic attacks in the 20+ years since then and I thought that I had my anxiety pretty much under control.

Little did I realize that my main coping mechanism was eating. I've always been overweight. I've never been a "normal" weight. I was even overweight when I was born. However, last year, on January 18, I saw 302 pounds on the scale in a doctor's office and something inside me snapped. That day, I started a weight loss plan and I've lost 72 pounds so far. I still have over 50 pounds to go.

So, how does this relate to my anxiety disorder? Well, as my weight has dropped and my eating habits have changed, I no longer self medicate with food. As a result, I've experienced an increase in ruminating.

I think this article has a good explanation of what I'm experiencing: Why Ruminating Is Unhealthy and How To Stop. From the article:

Ruminating is like a record thatís stuck and keeps repeating the same lyrics. Itís replaying an argument with a friend in your mind. Itís retracing past mistakes.

When people ruminate, they over-think or obsess about situations or life events, such as work or relationships.

Research has shown that rumination is associated with a variety of negative consequences, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, binge-drinking and binge-eating.

Why does rumination lead to such harmful results?

For some people, drinking or binge-eating becomes a way to cope with life and drown out their ruminations, according to Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D, a psychologist and professor at Yale University.
I have been both a binge eater and a binge drinker. I have mostly stopped both behaviors although I still do fall off the wagon from time to time. Eating too much has always been a way for me to distract myself from both physical and emotional pain although I didn't realize that until just lately.

Ruminating has always been something I do. I get stuff stuck in my head and I can't get it out. It can be minor stuff, like a silly disagreement or major stuff, like the bullshit that went down in my last job that culminated in me being fired. Negative thoughts will replay over and over and over and over and over again, usually at night when I'm trying to go to sleep. Those negative thoughts are often accompanied by physical manifestations of high emotions such as a pounding heart, tears, shaking and adrenalin rushes. I also get ear worms. Not your average ear worm that lasts for a few hours. No, I get ear worms that last for days, weeks or even months and they even wake me up at night. Last year, I had a Cyndi Lauper song stuck in my head for three months. Right now, I'm on day 4 or 5 of AC/DC's Thunderstruck. Actually, this one isn't too bad, I like the song a lot. But 3 months of Cyndi Lauper damn near drove me insane.

So, as I've lost weight, my ruminating has gotten worse. I'm not quite back to the levels I reached in my 20s, but it has been enough of a problem that I sought medical help again. My medical practitioner has prescribed Xanax for me. I take it right at bedtime, or shortly thereafter, if I been triggered and the ruminating rodeo has commenced in my head. So far, it has been effective in allowing me to sleep. Ruminating during the day hasn't been a huge issue for me because when I start, I can do other things to occupy myself and turn it off. Stupid Yahoo match 3 games are great for that! There's something about them that resets my brain.

I am considering going to therapy but I'm leery of that given some bad experiences I've had in the past.

Anyone else here have anxiety issues? Anyone else ruminate? How do you cope?
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Old 03-11-2013, 04:07 PM   #2
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I do! I was diagnosed with GAD and Social Anxiety disorder about 6 years ago. I had NO idea what ruminating was until you just described it. I don't have it months on end, thank God, but I totally understand the involuntary nature of those thoughts and waking up because of them. I don't sleep through the night ever but ruminating makes it waaaaaay worse. I once had an entire recipe going through my head. I dreamt about this stupid recipe and woke up thinking about the recipe about 21 times in a night and whenever I had a moment of peace, that's all I could think about...and it's different than "having a song stuck in your head." It's so annoying when you try to explain it to people and they think that's it. Then listen to the song and it'll be gone. It's not just "stuck in your head" it's OBSSESIVE and nearly constant!

I understand your difficulties though I don't think my anxiety issues are quite as bad as yours. I used to take Wellbutrin for depression and anxiety but recently I've had so many health issues that I didn't want to take quite so many pills so I went off of it. I am extremely self-aware and self-regulating so I work with myself to recognize triggers for anxiety and ways to help alleviate it. I haven't figured out the trick to ruminating yet...
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Old 03-11-2013, 04:16 PM   #3
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I'm a ruminator. I will replay an event, conversation, scene, thought, whatever, in my head over and over again for really long periods of time. Certain ones have remained for years; a certain fight I had with somebody at least 25 years ago still gets replayed in my head and I still think about what I could have, should have said differently. I don't even tell people what I think about because, frankly, it looks a little insane to be rehashing simple things that ordinary people don't even remember happening.

I handle it simply by accepting the fact that I'm an over-thinker. I think through the 9000 various possible outcomes to any scenario. I never lose an argument to my husband because he is having the fight for the first time and I have already thought of every single thing he could or might say and the various ways I could respond. He is totally out thought.

It does not rule my life or alter the way I live it, so I have never sought any sort of treatment for it. I also tend to think that there are just many different types of people out there and just because you aren't cookie cutter normal doesn't mean that you're abnormal or need to be fixed. But, if it's severe enough to cause a pounding heart, then I'd think it's time to talk to somebody.

Oh, and I'm on about week 12 of my current ear worm. It's "I Will Wait" by Mumford & Sons, and while a great tune, I'd just as soon it worked its way out of my head. It runs constantly in my head. Sometimes I wonder if I just have a brain that requires more constant stimulation than some other folks.

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Old 03-11-2013, 04:43 PM   #4
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Wow, I didn't realize that was the name of it. I do the same thing ALL THE TIME. I've never sought out help or treatment like Robin since it doesn't really rule or alter my life in any way.
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Old 03-11-2013, 04:56 PM   #5
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Tapping technique

This looks stupid as heck. But it REALLY works.This is the first link I googled up and there a couple of different variations - so you might want to google Emotional Freedom Technique or Tapping technique and there's another name for it, too. I haven't done it in a while and I need to start again. especially as I've been ruminating a lot as my eating has got better. (I didn't know the name until now)


I will re-read emails again and again and again. I will replay unpleasant scenes from 30 years ago to last week. It's horrible. I need to get back on the tapping. Negative thoughts just CIRCLE. I also find some exercise difficult (running, swimming) because my head sometimes gets caught in these horrible circles. "You're so slow. Look how slow you are. You'll never be fast enough. You'll always be the slowest." and I'll think about all the times I was the last to complete a drill. Awful.

Thank goodness I don't have the months long earworms. That's gotta suck.

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Old 03-11-2013, 05:52 PM   #6
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I never knew there was a name for it beyond "intrusive thoughts", or if they're totally different things! Either way, I definitely do it and it's just horrible. It's so beyond frustrating to not be able to make thoughts STOP! Makes me feel like I'm completely insane. It's like I can get physically exhausted without ever lifting a finger because all that's going on in my head. I've recently started seeing a counselor; not just because of that, but actually quite a few thing (anxiety being one of them). I've found it extremely helpful so far and I'm only about a month and a half in! I'm also in the process if getting psych eval per my counselor's suggestion to see if I'm in need of any medication. I guess we will see.

Thanks for sharing such a personal part of your life!
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Old 03-11-2013, 06:13 PM   #7
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I'm really sorry. What you say makes perfect sense. I've found just plain keeping busy, and working on multiple goals at once, keeps me from fixating on things, the way I do sometimes, when I have more time on my hands.
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Old 03-11-2013, 06:46 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by amandie View Post
Wow, I didn't realize that was the name of it. I do the same thing ALL THE TIME. I've never sought out help or treatment like Robin since it doesn't really rule or alter my life in any way.
Same! I do this all the time, but I had no idea there was a name for it.
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Old 03-11-2013, 07:07 PM   #9
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I refer to them as "head gigs." I have music playing in my head almost 24/7. I have a history of anxiety/panic disorder and mild OCD. I figured the music and intrusive thoughts were part of the OCD. Whatever the case I have been like this on and off for almost 39 years so it's pretty much "normal" for me and I just cope with it. Medication only stops the anxiety, not the music or OCD. I'm done with SSRI's. BTDT.

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Old 03-11-2013, 07:12 PM   #10
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That was highly informative although i never experienced such a thing. I do get ear worms but they last tops 2 days.....and then they are gone. Maybe because i listen to a lot of complicated music during the night and one of these songs is enough to eliminate the sort 15 second silliness that has stuck in my head.

Many wishes from me for quick recovery in your issues, and keep on eating healthy.

PS: Currently i have a delicious ear worm from AFI's Synesthesia since this morning......but i don't really want it to go away just yet

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Old 03-11-2013, 07:19 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Garnet2727 View Post
I think this article has a good explanation of what I'm experiencing: Why Ruminating Is Unhealthy and How To Stop. From the article:
Anyone else here have anxiety issues? Anyone else ruminate? How do you cope?
I also never knew there was a name for it. Interesting.

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Old 03-12-2013, 12:33 AM   #12
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I have to confess, that when I saw the title of this thread, given that I grew up on a ranch and cattle are ruminates, I was interested and curious.

After reading it does make total sense, in a strange way. Cattle have 4 stomachs, and re chew and swallow food repeatedly.

So the repetition thing does make sense. In a kind of strange, let's get off the merry go round kind of way.

No offense intended, I grew up with the animals, and still work for a veterinarian, so my view may be a bit skewed, in favor of animal anatomy.

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The human body is capable of amazing things! But without the mind, it is nothing. Get your mind in gear and the body will follow!

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Old 03-12-2013, 02:41 AM   #13
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Old 03-12-2013, 09:29 AM   #14
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OMG, I am blown away by this thread. I had no idea other people had this issue as well. I have many negative thoughts that I just can't seem to get rid of, memories of unpleasant past events that I wish I could change. For example, I made an unintended, insensitive comment to a friend once, almost 25 years ago, and I still get anxious thinking about it! She never said anything and we remained friends until I moved away, but I still am kicking myself over what I said. I have lots of examples like that, and they drive me bananas.

I never thought other people did this, and I've never told anyone about it because I thought I was weird for being that way. Like others have mentioned here, I also tend to obsess over every thing. It drives my husband crazy. For example, the other day we were driving and the red light came on that meant we needed gas soon. In our car, that meant at least 60 miles. I mentioned it to him, and because I do this all the time, I told him, "This time, I will not obsess over it. You stop for gas whenever you want to and I won't keep reminding you every few minutes. " I was doing good for about 10 minutes, then it was like I couldn't help myself, I had to remind him about needing gas! He laughed because he knows me, but even I was irritated at myself.

I totally know what you mean about using food or alcohol to get some relief for this. I used to binge drink a lot (which often resulting in creating more negative situations over which to ruminate), now I barely drink at all. Now if only I could turn to exercise for relief, that would be a lot more positive.
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Old 03-12-2013, 12:06 PM   #15
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I do the same thing. I've tried to channel that obsessive energy into thinking about my diet. I'll keep a certain positive theme running through my head, such as, "i will stay on plan and if i stay on plan, i WILL lose weight." ONLY positive stuff. The mind is a powerful thing.
Trying Intuitive Eating! Want to be happier and have a healthy relationship with food
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