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Depression Health Center

New Year’s Blues

Does the end of the year get you down?
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Ruminators and the New Year’s Blues

If you find yourself assessing and reassessing the year, becoming more and more depressed, you may be a ruminator. Women are more likely than men to have this habit, Nolen-Hoeksema says.

In her research, Nolen-Hoeksema has focused on "ruminators." She describes ruminators as those who go over and over their problems, either in their own mind or by discussing them with others, but have no clear plan to solve the issues. She has found:

  • Those who ruminate also tend to have negative coping styles, criticize themselves unduly and be pessimistic. Ruminating and depression often go hand-in-hand.
  • Recognizing when to stop ruminating is crucial. "Everyone ruminates some," she says. The real difficulty arises, she says, when you realize all the thinking and rethinking about a problem or issue is not getting you anywhere or is making you feel worse -- and still, you can't quit. "People who get stuck in rumination think there is going to be insight by keeping on thinking about it," she says. "They may have more trouble [than others] shifting their attention [to other topics]."
  • Depression can make ruminating worse. If you are already in a depressed mood and get started on a rumination cycle, you'll tend to focus on the worst aspects of a problem, she says. "Rumination and depression are a toxic mix." The rumination feeds the depression and vice versa.  The process is so reciprocal, says Nolen-Hoeksema, that it's difficult to identify sometimes which started it all.

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