Ruminating Plus Hopelessness can be Deadly.

Ruminating plus hopelessness can be deadly

You often find yourself ruminating over and over. Usually, it’s over a problem or situation that you haven’t been able to resolve. You have been noticing over time that your thinking is getting worse, you are finding yourself feeling more hopeless about the situation, and maybe you have begun to notice that you have been thinking more about suicide than you would care to admit.

If this has happened to you, or this is where you currently find yourself, according to research, this is not uncommon. In a research article in the Suicide and Life-threatening behavior Journal, rumination has been found to lead to hopelessness which in turns leads to a downward spiral towards suicidal ideation. According to the article, recent research has focused on predictors of suicidal ideation and behavior such as negative cognition styles, dysfunctional attitudes, hopelessness and rumination.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention currently 44, 965 people die by suicide every year or 123 people per day. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.  Since, suicidal ideation increases the likelihood of attempts, (according to the same article) it begs the argument for making ideation a critical point of detection and prevention.

Negative cognition styles, which the article refusers to as “depressogenic” thinking, refers to the way we negatively interpret negative events in our life. So, for example if my friend John didn’t say hello to me in the store and I began to think about what a jerk he was, without considering other possibilities, that would be negative inference.

Dysfunctional attitudes, to further the analog with John, could be the attributions I make about him in a negative light and then further take my encounter with John, and enlarge it to how many more people were being a “jerk” to me, and then top it off with globalization, inferring (albeit dysfunctional) that everyone is a “jerk”.

Hopelessness, or a hopeless or pessimistic outlook towards one’s future, can be another correlation to suicidal ideation, according to the article. The article adds other research that has shown a correlation to hopelessness and attempted and completed suicides. Hopelessness has been found to play a more central role as a predictor of suicidal ideation than depression.

Rumination, (or a ruminative response style) according to the article, is a tendency for individuals to reclusively mull over the causes, consequences and symptoms of their depression. The research has found this response style can lead to further hopelessness and increased suicidal ideation.


One of my greatest challenges in my recovery has been to stop ruminating.
Here are three tools that I’ve found helpful in overcoming my ruminating:

  1. Choosing with my will to control my thinking.
    Instead of allowing my mind to simply be on automatic pilot I have to choose to be in control of what I’m thinking about and how often I’m thinking about it. Even if what I’ve been ruminating about is a “worry” that is true; I at least have to choose to simply stop letting it play over and over in my mind.

As a Christian I was reminded that the Apostle Paul in the Bible says that we are to “take captive” our thinking. He also says that we should focus on what is right and true. In other words, control your thinking. And replace the negative with what is true and helpful.

  1. When ruminating I learned that it’s important to actually tell myself, out- loud, to “stop”.
    I read somewhere that if your brain here’s your voice it actually disrupts the brainwave pattern and interrupts the repetitive thinking. (It certainly works for me.) It’s similar to someone interrupting you when you are really focused on something and then it is difficult to get your focus back.
  2. Hang out with people with positive outlooks on life as much as possible.
    It is said that we become like the five people we hang around the most. So, as much as possible I nurture relationships with people who have a positive look on life.

You certainly don’t need to have bipolar disorder to have difficulties with ruminating. It is common to the human condition.

What do tools do you use to overcome your ruminating?


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Smith, J. M., Alloy, L. B., & Abramson, L. Y. (2006). Cognitive vulnerability to depression, rumination, hopelessness, and suicidal ideation: Multiple pathways to self-injurious thinking. Suicide and Life-threatening behavior36(4), 443-454.\
Smith, J. M., Alloy, L. B., & Abramson, L. Y. (2006). Cognitive vulnerability to depression, rumination, hopelessness, and suicidal ideation: Multiple pathways to self-injurious thinking. Suicide and Life-threatening behavior36(4), 443-454.
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