Why do animals brood

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We all brood. But if we can no longer switch off thoughts and worries, it can be a sign of mental illness. Psychologist Anna-Marie Raith explains when too much thinking actually becomes pathological.

Despite a long day, thoughts are still circling in my head: Did I make the right decision in the situation at work? Said something wrong on a date? Caused a misunderstanding in your circle of friends?

Brooding explained psychologically

We all know this endless thoughtful feeling: Brooding, as the psychologist Anna-Marie Raith explains, defines psychology as "ruminating" thoughts: "Our thoughts keep revolving around the same topic."

Brooding is mostly directed towards the past, explains the psychologist: We have already experienced the situation about which our thoughts revolve. When it comes to the future, according to the psychological definition, we worry instead.

"We think everything through again and again - from front to back and back again."
Anna-Marie Raith, psychologist

It is not entirely clear to science why we are brooding - after all, the thoughts have no positive consequence, says Anna-Marie Raith.

In the short term, the thought carousel can be quite a good distraction. In the long term, however, we would not be able to act, which is not a helpful strategy. And the motto "just do it" seldom helps those affected because it is not that easy to tackle the problem or to face negative feelings, says her psychologist.

The point at which you need help

Brooding in and of itself is not a mental disorder, the psychologist asserts. But if you are so absorbed in your own thoughts that you feel an impairment in everyday life, things are neglected and depressed by them, you should seek help.

"I think there is a point where you should seek help."
Anna-Marie Raith, psychologist

Nevertheless, you are not completely caught up in your own thoughts: "In the short term, there is a method that is called brooding," explains Anna-Marie Raith. "This is an internal signal to interrupt this carousel. For example, many imagine a large, shimmering stop sign." After that, it is important to turn to other thoughts thematically.

In addition, it helps in the long term to set up a so-called "brooding chair" where you can let your thoughts run free for a set period of time. Such a chair can help to banish brooding from bed, where thoughts can rob you of a lot of sleep.

If you need help yourself, you can contact the telephone counseling service by phone or online. You can get anonymous and confidential advice on the free hotlines 0800-111 0 111 and 0800-111 0 222.