Living with Rumination OCD: Symptoms and Techniques for Relief

rumination OCD

OCD is a real mental health disorder that many suffer from. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than two million Americans have obsessive compulsive disorder

There are a variety of symptoms that go along with the disorder. Knowing what they are and how to manage them is an important step in your treatment plan. 

Rumination OCD occurs in most, if not all, subtypes of the disorder. Ruminating thoughts are both obsessive and compulsive in nature and can be quite disturbing. 

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to control these ruminations. The techniques here can be quite effective, but be sure you talk them over with your behavioral health team.

They should never replace any traditional forms of treatment prescribed by your doctor.

What is Rumination OCD?

Ruminating thoughts are one of the main features of obsessive-compulsive disorder. They may also be called intrusive thoughts.

A person suffering from them spends a lot of time thinking about a certain topic. They often have a hard time focusing on other things. The thought cycles through their brain over and over again. 

These thoughts are usually accompanied by compulsions. Some experts call intrusive thoughts a compulsion. Learning to control them is the main goal of therapy.


When it comes to ruminating thoughts, there are a variety of themes and common topics that tend to dominate. Though each person is different, these commonalities can help with diagnosis. 

Because intrusive thoughts can be classified as both obsessions and compulsions, it’s important to be aware of which is occurring. That makes it easier to choose the appropriate techniques for controlling them.

Common obsessive ruminations include:

  • Fears about hurting someone
  • The need for perfection
  • Cleanliness
  • Philosophical or religious questions
  • Inappropriate sexual activity

Common intrusive thoughts that are considered compulsive include:

  • Checking to be sure you haven’t hurt anyone around you
  • Going over a cleaning checklist repeatedly
  • Thinking about past events
  • Extended time periods considering philosophical or religious thoughts
  • Avoiding certain situations that trigger these thoughts

While everyone has these thoughts from time to time, a person who suffers from OCD will have them constantly. They will run through their mind on a loop that they often can’t get control of. 

Intrusive thoughts can interfere with normal daily life. You might become so preoccupied with these thoughts that you can’t perform at school or work. You may neglect important relationships. 

Treatment Options

If you are not already under the care of a mental health specialist and you are having ruminating thoughts, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. Look for someone with experience treating OCD.

There are several therapeutic techniques that you can learn in a clinical setting but then translate into real life. These can help you calm your thoughts and live with your disorder. 

In addition, some individuals respond well to medication. You may find that a combination of therapy and meds calms your mind and lets you live your life. 

Keep reading to find out more about your treatment options. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Perhaps the most common is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. This technique is aimed at changing the way you think about obsessive-compulsive disorder, specifically your symptoms. 

As you change your way of thinking, you will find that you can also change your behaviors. 

The goal of this method is to break the association between your thoughts and the distress they cause. By weakening the power these thoughts have over you, you learn to control them, both in and out of therapy. 

Exposure with Response Prevention

Exposure with Response Prevention, also called ERP, is highly effective when used in combination with cognitive-behavioral therapy. The method used in this treatment is to expose the individual to the events that cause the distressing thoughts. 

The idea is that the more time you spend exposed to these scary situations, the less power they will have over your thoughts. 

Your therapist will guide you through this, starting small and increasing the level of exposure over time. He or she will help stop you from being triggered in these situations. 

Over time, you’ll learn to handle the scenario without engaging in compulsive or obsessive thoughts. Your discomfort level will gradually diminish until you can handle the event without ruminating. 

Mindful-Based Behavioral Therapy

This treatment method is usually combined with exposure and response prevention therapy. It involves helping increase awareness of OCD and keep you in the present moment. 

The main difference between this kind of therapy and traditional CBT is that it makes use of a writing intervention. 

The mindfulness aspect aims to retrain your brain so that you can make a distinction between yourself and the disorder. It teaches you to remind yourself that what’s happening is the illness.

This can be a powerful way to get control of your thoughts. 

Intensive Outpatient OCD Treatment Program

Many people find that an intensive, but short-term, program is very beneficial. The main benefit of this is that the time commitment is much less than other therapy programs. 

At the same time, as the name implies, it’s much more intense, but may produce a quicker improvement in symptoms. 

Therapy sessions are longer and you will have access to your therapist 24 hours per day for the length of the program. The program is usually a couple of weeks. 

Your mental wellness specialist will use ERP to weaken your distress regarding your thoughts. In addition to office visits, this may include home visits.

Home visits have the distinct advantage of helping you learn to control your thoughts in a familiar setting, rather than in the clinic. 

You’ll also learn more about OCD so that you have the facts necessary to control your ruminations on your own. 

Starting a Program

There are a few choices when it comes to seeing treatment for rumination OCD. Often they are used together to produce the most effective results. 

It’s important to work with your therapist and follow the program guidelines for successful results. If you’re ready to take the first step, call us today to learn about our mental health programs.

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