This is how intrusive thoughts give way to anxiety

Mismanagement of anxiety is one of the most common problems both among those who go to psychotherapy and in the general population. This psychological phenomenon degenerates into psychopathologies quite frequently, but even when it does not constitute a disorder, it can cause a significant amount of discomfort on a day-to-day basis.

One of the reasons why these psychological imbalances associated with anxiety is that it can be triggered by various factors that occur a lot in all types of people: insecurities and self-esteem problems in the face of a project or a social context, work overload, relationship problems, drug use, etc. In this article we will see what one of those anxiety-causing elements consists of: rumination based on intrusive thoughts.

What is psychological rumination?

Psychological rumination is a vicious circle in which our mind is subject to an almost constant coming and going of intrusive thoughts that disturb us and cause us discomfort.

It is a very common phenomenon that happens to practically everyone at various times in life: that annoying feeling of not being able to get a **** thought or an image out of the head, this mental content being something that makes us feel bad: a memory about something we did and about which we are ashamed, an assumption about what how bad we have been before someone, a prognosis about how bad an important exam will go, etc.

So, psychological rumination works cyclically based on intrusive thoughts (so called because they intrude on our consciousness even though we do not want to attract them to it) and it is making us more and more vulnerable to them, because we become more and more desperate when we see that we are not able to get rid of them.

Through a paradoxical effect, the fear of suffering again because of intrusive thoughts attracts them to our consciousness, and that installs us in the feeling that whatever we do we will feel bad and we will be distracted by our own thoughts. whose unpleasant emotional load will make it difficult for us to concentrate on doing things to improve our situation.

How do you go from intrusive thoughts to anxiety problems?

Considering what we have seen so far about intrusive thoughts and psychological rumination, it is not surprising that these are a cause of anxiety. This cycle of feelings and mental images that annoy us or even hurt us emotionally deteriorate our state of mind and predispose us to enter a state of alert to try to take control of what enters and leaves our own consciousness, without success.

However, it is also true that rumination and intrusive thoughts are both causes of anxiety and consequences of this. When we begin to feel anxious, it is easier for us to interpret everything from a pessimistic point of view, and to direct our memory towards what may give us reason to worry.

On the other hand, there are various aspects of intrusive thoughts that link them to anxiety. They are as follows.

1. They have an avoidance component

Rumination is closely related to worry, but being a cyclical phenomenon, it paralyzes us. This happens because it directs our attention towards our own mind, and not so much towards the search for solutions.

That is why it is often said that it has an avoidant component: directing attention to these intrusive thoughts is a way of self-sabotaging ourselves.

2. They lead us to seek distractions

To try to dispel the discomfort generated by intrusive thoughts, it is common for us to give in to impulses that promise us instant pleasant sensations with the ability to distract us: eating despite not being hungry, browsing the updates of our social networks, watching videos on the Internet, etc.

These kinds of so-called remedies only provide very short-term solutions, and over time, we learn to associate them with anxiety, so that the very act of doing or thinking about them can bring intrusive thoughts to mind.

3. Wasting time makes us feel more anxious

Due to the above, we waste time and we notice that each time we are in a worse situation when it comes to doing something to solve what worries us or what makes us feel bad (for example, we let the days go by without studying to an exam, because the fact of always thinking about this and the problem it poses exhausts us emotionally and we don’t have the strength to spend more time on that).

4. Sustained discomfort throughout that time damages our mental health

Finally, we cannot forget that the simple fact of having spent a considerable time mulling over things that make us feel bad is something that in itself causes our nervous system to be activated, since we notice that we have a problem that we must solve as soon as possible. . This means having even more anxiety, produced by the anxiety itself..

Are you interested in having psychotherapeutic help for anxiety?

Fortunately, anxiety problems and everything that comes along with them can be overcome through psychological therapy. If you are suffering from anxiety problems or any other type of emotional alteration that causes you discomfort, Get in touch with me. I am a psychologist and neuropsychologist dedicated to the care of patients of all ages, and I offer face-to-face and online sessions by video call. On this page you will find more information about my services, as well as my contact information.

Bibliographic references:

  • American Psychiatric Association -APA- (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid: Panamericana.
  • Dickson, K .; Ciesla, JA; Reilly, LC (Dec 2011). “Rumination, worry, cognitive avoidance, and behavioral avoidance: Examination of temporal effects”. Behavior Therapy. 43 (3): pp. 937-959.
  • Joormann, J .; Dkane, M .; Gotlib, IH (2006). Adaptive and maladaptive components of rumination? Diagnostic specificity and relation to depressive biases. Behavior Therapy, 37 (3): pp. 269-280.
  • Magee, JC & Teachman, BA (2012). Distress and Recurrence of Intrusive Thoughts in Younger and Older Adults. Psychology and Aging, 27 (1): pp. 199 – 210.
  • Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2000). The role of rumination in depressive disorders and mixed anxiety / depressive symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 109 (3): pp. 504-511.
  • Papageorgiou, C .; Wells, A. (2004). Depressive Rumination: Nature, Theory and Treatment. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons.


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