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Rumination can be defined as the focused attention on the symptoms of a person’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, when compared to its solutions. Since the Response Styles Theory by Nolen-Hoeksema has been empirically supported, this model of rumination is the most widely used conceptualization. 

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Theories around this topic change in their predictions with respect to the content of ruminative thoughts on the basis of their respective conceptualizations. Some models propose that it is focused on negative feeling states and/or the circumstances around that emotion (RST, rumination on sadness). In other models, the focus is on discrepancies between current and desired status. Finally, other models propose that it is the negative themes of uncontrollability and harm in metacognitions that are considered most important. 

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Some of the most common thoughts representing ruminative responses are questioning the well-being of oneself and obsessively focusing on the possible consequences and causes of a person’s depressive symptoms. For example, some of the most common ruminative thoughts are: “why am I such a loser”, “I’m in such a bad mood”, “I just don’t feel like doing anything”, and so on – basically negative thoughts and emotions. 

Three forms of rumination have been proposed:

  • State rumination – Involves dwelling on the consequences and feelings related to failure. State rumination is more common in individuals who are neurotic, pessimistic and have negative attributional styles.
  • Action rumination – Consists of task-oriented thought processes focused chiefly on goal achievement and correction of mistakes.
  • Task-irrelevant rumination – Utilizes people or events unassociated with the blocked goal to distract a person from failure.

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