A study by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) shows learning to reduce rumination is very helpful for patients with depressive symptoms, the institution said in a press release on Tuesday. Rumination is the action or process of thinking deeply about something.
Depressed individuals “don’t need to worry and ruminate,” Professor Roger Hagen of the university’s Department of Psychology says. “Just realising this is liberating for a lot of people.”
Hagen and his NTNU colleagues Odin Hjemdal, Stian Solem, Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair and Hans M. Nordahl published a scientific paper on the treatment of depression using metacognitive therapy (MCT).
“Some people experience their persistent ruminative thinking as completely uncontrollable, but individuals with depression can gain control over it,” Professor Hagen says.
Thirty-nine patients – 16 men and 23 women – were treated over a 10-week period. After six months, 80 per cent of them had achieved full recovery from their depression diagnosis.
“The follow-up after six months showed the same tendency,” Professor Hagen says.
Today, medications and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are the recommended treatments for depression and anxiety. In CBT, patients engage in analysing the content of their thoughts to challenge their validity and reality. MCT, by contrast, focuses on lessening the ruminative process.
“Anxiety and depression give rise to difficult and painful negative thoughts. Many patients have thoughts of mistakes, past failures or other negative thoughts. Metacognitive therapy addresses thinking processes,” Professor Hagen says, rather than the thought content.
Patients with depression “think too much, which MCT refers to as ‘depressive rumination’. Rather than ruminating so much on negative thoughts, MCT helps patients to reduce negative thought processes and get them under control,” he says.
By becoming aware of what happens when they start to ruminate, patients learn to take control of their own thoughts.
The paper is titled “Metacognitive therapy for depression in adults: A waiting list randomized controlled trial with six months follow-up”. It is in the Frontiers in Psychology journal.