Repetitive Thought (including Rumination & Worry)

Human beings experience a wide variety of repetitive thoughts about themselves and their lives, not all of them negative. Reminiscing, savoring, anticipating, and problem-solving are positive examples of repetitive thoughts, and go some way ot explaining why we have the propensity to engage in repetitive thoughts.

Some types of repetitive thought are unhelpful though, even harmful. Rumination and worry are two key forms of unhelpful repetitive thought and use of these can predict anxiety and depression. They are maintainance factors in conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder and depression.

Psychology Tools cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) worksheets for repetitive thought




Key references

  • Watkins, E. R. (2008). Constructive and unconstructive repetitive thought. Psychological Bulletin, 134(2), 163-206 nih.gov
  • Watkins, E. R. (2009). Depressive Rumination and Co-Morbidity: Evidence for Brooding as a Transdiagnostic Process. Journal of Rational-Emotive Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 27, 160-175 nih.gov
  • Watkins, E. R. (2016). Rumination-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy for depression. Guilford Publications.