Recovery Tips

Rumination and the 2 Sneaky Compulsions You’re Probably Doing

December 6, 2022

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If you have OCD, chances are you ruminate and engage in sneaky compulsions. Some people are unaware of rumination, a broad term describing mental engagement with a thought. People with OCD and anxiety can engage with thoughts in various ways. Let’s explore specific mental compulsions such as rumination.

The two main sneaky compulsions

There are specific ways people engage in rumination, mentally working through thoughts to find certainty. The most common sneaky compulsions are mental reviewing and mental planning. They are similar, serving identical functions, but can be subtle.

Mental reviewing

This refers to effortfully searching memories for content, feelings, or past events to feel more certain. It occurs in real event OCD, relationship OCD, false memory OCD, and others. Examples include reviewing feelings with a partner or replaying a driving route to determine if someone was hit.

Social anxiety and mental review

People with social anxiety may continually replay conversations to evaluate embarrassment, judgment, and more. Mental reviewing is normal to some extent in the non-clinical population and can be helpful when used selectively. For example, reviewing conduct during job interviews can improve future performance. The problem arises when these behaviors become urgent, desperate, and uncontrollable, indicating obsessive and compulsive tendencies.

Mental planning or preparing

Similar to mental reviewing, mental preparing focuses on the future. It involves reverse rumination or future forecasting. Occasional mental preparing can be beneficial, such as planning for job interview questions. However, it should be controlled and not repetitive, consistent, urgent, or desperate. When these behaviors become compulsive, OCD and anxiety take over.

Be aware of these sneaky behaviors. Mental compulsions are not easily observable, requiring discipline, willingness, and mindfulness. You might engage in mental reviewing or planning without realizing it. Recognize the signs and make a choice to resist going down those paths repeatedly.

Remember, trying to figure things out prevents sitting with uncertainty, which is crucial for overcoming OCD and anxiety. Resisting rituals may feel uncomfortable, but it’s part of the process. Stay determined!

In upcoming blogs, I’ll discuss next steps to regain agency over these non-observable rituals. Understand that it’s a process and you might not be able to stop it instantly. There are effective strategies and learning opportunities to help you feel like yourself again. Stay tuned.

If you’re confused about resisting sneaky compulsions, consider my “ERP Basics” masterclass. It explains the importance of disrupting OCD patterns. Click here to learn more and access the masterclass to challenge OCD now.

You’ve got this.


This blog post is for informational purposes only and may not be the best fit for you and your personal situation. It shall not be construed as mental health or medical advice. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional advice of your own professional mental health or medical treatment, advice, and/or diagnosis. Always check with your own physician or medical or mental health professional before trying or implementing any information read here.

Jenna Overbaugh LPC, 2023 ©

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