ADHD & Rumination

Tackling Rumination in Individuals with ADHD

Rumination, or the persistent dwelling on negative thoughts, is a common issue for those with ADHD. This tendency to fixate on past events or worries can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and depression, often linked to ADHD's difficulties with attention regulation and emotional control. Managing rumination involves practicing mindfulness, redirecting focus to constructive activities, and cognitive-behavioral techniques to challenge negative thought patterns. Recognizing and actively addressing this habit can help break the cycle of rumination, leading to improved mental well-being for individuals with ADHD.

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Ruminating Thoughts and the Connection to ADHD

Having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can bring a lot of negative experiences 🙁. Whenever we face difficulties or strong emotions, we tend to put ourselves down more and fall into a cycle of negative thoughts. Most of the time, some people with ADHD struggle with this short mental loop ➰ that feeds itself repeatedly, known as rumination.

Before we tackle more about the things related to rumination, especially the reason behind this obsessive thinking, let's first briefly discuss how an ADHD brain works.

Have you ever had a negative experience in your head and play it again and again on your mind?

The Neurodivergent ADHD Brain

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can greatly affect a person's daily life. Studies show that the brains of people with ADHD are generally wired differently from those without it. Simply put, when faced with a difficult task or a situation, the brain 🧠 of an individual with ADHD sometimes struggles to filter out the unnecessary information and focus on what needs to be done.

Someone with adult ADHD can experience lots of inattention to details or impulsive behaviors that can affect them or the people around them. A lot of people with ADHD are naturally drawn to commit mistakes, get easily distracted and have a hard time understanding the consequences of their actions. These past mistakes make us feel horrible or think that we are such a mess in dealing with our lives. Apart from having low self-esteem, we tend to overthink our actions' negative consequences.

On top of the impulsive symptoms and inattentive ADHD traits, some people with ADHD can have difficulty controlling their thoughts, especially those with hyperactive symptoms of an ADHD brain. Their ADHD brains can even have a thousand ideas in a short time, which can result either in great things or negative ones 😯. We cannot fully control what can go inside our brains, since, in many cases,  

These continuous negative or anxious thoughts can affect us in the long run. Thus, this is where the concept of rumination comes in.

Everything to Know About Rumination

Did you know where the word 'rumination' originated? The term rumination came from the cow's behavior of eating something, chewing them proficiently, and swallowing them 🐄. It seems like a normal process, right? But, here’s the kicker. After a while, they'll return what they ate from their stomach, then continue eating them again, and this little cycle continues 😨. The rumination loop is often associated with those people who tend to have obsessive thoughts and cannot stop ruminating on their ideas.

Rumination comes from cows.

As an ADHD brain struggles with how streams of thoughts come and go, negative rumination is one of the everyday things a person with ADHD can experience. Most times, we tend to replay our negative experiences over and over again in our minds. We focus too much on the pain and feelings associated with them, making it more difficult for us to move forward 😢.

According to experts, rumination makes sense because it can be human nature to rethink the things that happened to us and micro-analyze them on how to improve them the next time we encounter them 🪞. Technically, this can be an optimistic scenario for ruminators. However, the opposite can also happen. Whenever we ruminate on negative thoughts, our emotions may  be amplified, making us feel worse 🙁.

It’s also possible that ruminating happens because of a history of trauma, either physical or emotional, or due to an ongoing stressor that’s out of our control. 

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ADHD & Rumination: Between Negative or Anxious Thoughts

Ruminating thoughts can happen at any given time regardless of whether you’re neurodivergent or neurotypical 👌. They often replay events in their heads, revisiting previous instances and thinking about what they could have done to make it better. However, for some people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), these processes can affect our mental health, as this short mental loop can go on for hours or even days.

We tend to do rumination with our past experiences, especially the negative ones

This is likely due to how our ADHD brains process and respond to emotions, situations, and experiences. With the possible lack of emotional regulation and presence of a negative self-image of ADHD, breaking this cycle and getting out of rumination can be challenging. To start turning rumination into positive things, let's try to dig deeper and understand more about ADHD & Rumination 🙂.

There can be several types of rumination; in this article, we’ll discuss two.  The first is about Negative Rumination, and the other is about Anxious Rumination. These two terms can be connected to how our ADHD brain works, as people with ADHD are more prone to overthinking to the point of having low self-esteem and difficulty regulating emotions.

Negative Rumination

ADHD brains ruminate in negative thought patterns, and this is because of our brains' possible lack of emotional regulation. As some people with ADHD tend to be more sensitive to emotions, they are more likely to get anxious or angry 😠 over small things around them. And when these negative emotions manifest inside our brains, we can lose control over the situation and eventually get into a state of negative ruminations.

People with ADHD are more prone to rumination

Since we are prone to receive plenty of negative feedback as if ADHD is a big, bad, horrible thing, these messages can easily be stored in our brains and affect us negatively. As a response, we tend to ruminate on these ideas coming from the outside instead of understanding them ourselves. To make things worse, low self-esteem is also part of this negative feedback loop, as our brains are exposed to overwhelming negative criticism.

Anxious Rumination

The second form of ruminating thoughts that we can experience is anxious rumination. This thinking will often revolve around our future and what could go wrong—sometimes, even when there's nothing to worry about. We often think about the worst-case scenario 🤔, even though it won't necessarily happen. Again, this might be due to our ADHD brains' ability to overthink and lack emotional regulation.

Some studies have concluded that ruminators tend to struggle more with depression

Whenever we can't control our emotions and fear, worry will manifest itself in our brains, leading us to think excessively about everything that might happen, as if a big or dreadful task is looming ahead 🌧️. This type of rumination can be challenging to break out of because we are so preoccupied with potential outcomes that the thoughts become more extensive and intense. These ruminating thoughts can limit us from getting a favorable scenario as we get fully consumed and stuck in anxious thought spirals.

Ruminating Thoughts and Other Mental Health Disorders

Since rumination is a cycle that can bring plenty of intrusive thoughts, the possibility of this developing into other mental disorders can happen. Hence, there’s a possibility that anxious rumination or negative ruminating thoughts can contribute to the development of depression and anxiety. And when you develop depression and/or anxiety, they, too, may contribute to other mental health conditions. 

Breaking Out of the Rumination Cycle

Rumination may sometimes feel uncontrollable and can induce anxiety and negative emotions in people. However, some steps can be taken to help break out of the rumination cycle 👍.

Though anxious or negative spiral thoughts can sometimes come and go through our subconscious beliefs and feelings, it's important to remember that these thoughts can still be managed.

Learning to avoid ruminating

Managing negative and anxious ruminations can improve our well-being significantly, making us achieve more in our life because there's less room for distractions and self-doubt. Here are some tips to consciously replace ADHD Rumination:

  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle 💪 is one of the keys to managing racing thoughts. Physical activity, such as running or mountain biking, can help clear our minds and give us more control over our thoughts.
  • Playing a video game can also stop ruminating thoughts. The positive distractions 🎮brought by having these hobbies can help us prevent the thought cycle and give our brains some time to rest.
  • Take note 📝 of your triggers and address them head-on. If you can identify what triggers your anxious thoughts, preventing yourself from falling into the same cycle again is more accessible. For some, taking notes of these triggers makes them understand themselves better. The writing process puts us in a better perspective of our thoughts and feelings.
  • Create a comforting phrase to make us stop ruminating. The positive distraction formed with optimism can work wonders when these phrases effectively calm us down and redirect our focus to something else. Successful mantras 🧘can help us manage our racing thoughts and inspire us to keep going.

Having positive distractions can break us in our cycle of the negative mental loop that we often experience because of our overthinking and rumination. These healthy distractions can help us think more clearly and reduce our anxious thoughts in the long run.

It's equally important to manage and treat ADHD symptoms better to manage ruminating thoughts and other mental health disorders 🙆. Focusing on the present and being mindful can help us break out of negative thought spirals. Remember that you aren't alone, and there's help available whenever you need it.

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ADHD & Rumination FAQ

What is rumination?

Rumination, in simpler terms, is repetitive thinking. However, it is often seen in a negative light because in most cases, the thoughts are distressing. It may occur because of the belief that repetitive reflection on things we did can give us better insight for when they happen again in the future. Rumination can also be due to physical or emotional trauma or stressors out of our control

How is rumination connected to ADHD

Some people with ADHD have difficulty managing their thoughts and emotions. Due to this, they may be more prone to rumination.

How do we break the cycle of these negative or anxious thoughts?

If your rumination is made worse by your ADHD symptoms, one of the best courses of actions to take is to manage your symptoms well. Get in touch with a mental healthcare professional for a more solid approach to this. Healthy distractions and physical activities can also help to break the cycle of negative thoughts.

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