Rumination – a way of thinking characterized by repetitive, intrusive and uncontrollable negative thoughts – may influence several psychological variables, such as coping and optimism, which can amplify the sense of perceived stress in fibromyalgia (FM), according to a new study.
The study, titled “Rumination Modulates Stress And Other Psychological Processes In Fibromyalgia,” was published in the European Journal of Rheumatology.
FM is characterized by widespread pain and high levels of sleep disturbance, fatigue and altered cognition, which can be exacerbated by psychological stress, personality types, coping and anxiety. Certain styles of thinking, such as rumination, also can affect FM by inducing emotional stress.
“We hypothesized that higher levels of rumination would be associated with psychological variables that are linked to stress itself,” the authors wrote in the study. “These variables include mood, control, optimism, sleep and coping. We aimed to examine the role of rumination thinking style and to explore whether this thinking style contributes to stress levels in FM.”
To do so, 98 FM women completed several questionnaires to assess their levels of rumination, stress, anxiety, depression, optimism, control and coping.
Researchers found that patients with higher levels of rumination had increased use of negative coping techniques and higher levels of anxiety, depression and poor sleep levels. These patients also had lower optimism and control. Higher levels of rumination correlated strongly with stress.
Together, the results indicated that ruminative thoughts influenced several psychological processes important for FM, namely stress.
“The association between stress and rumination was the strongest of all the variables tested”, the authors wrote. “High rumination was associated with high stress. We could not define the cause and effect with this cross-sectional methodology; however, we believe that it was likely that rumination generated emotional distress rather than the other way around. We have previously demonstrated that in this same cohort, stress predicted the levels of the characteristic phenotypic clinical features of FM, namely pain, poor sleep, cognition, and fatigue. These results are congruent with the effect of stress on other psychological and functional variables as reported in previous studies,” the study authors concluded.
For this reason, the authors believed that better management of ruminative negative thoughts in patients with FM may improve their symptoms and outcomes.