September 5


Co-Rumination: The Surprising Way Your Friendships Could Be Hurting You

By Joshua Turner

September 5, 2023

Co-rumination is a term used to describe the tendency to discuss and revisit problems, especially in close relationships excessively. While venting and seeking support from others can be helpful, it can adversely affect mental health and relationships. Focusing on negative emotions, repetitive discussions, and a lack of problem-solving often characterizes it.

Research suggests that it is more common among adolescents and young adults, particularly among females. However, it can occur across different ages and genders. It has been linked to increased symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, and decreased self-esteem and social support.

Understanding its role in relationships and mental health can help individuals recognize and address this behavior.

Key Takeaways

  • Co-rumination is the tendency to excessively discuss and revisit problems, which can negatively affect mental health and relationships.
  • It is more common among adolescents and young adults, particularly females, but can occur across different ages and genders.
  • It has been linked to increased symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, and decreased self-esteem and social support. Recognizing and addressing it can help improve mental health and relationships.

Understanding Co-Rumination

Co-rumination is a type of communication where people repeatedly discuss their problems with each other. It often involves dwelling on negative emotions and experiences, leading to increased stress and anxiety. While talking about issues can be helpful in some cases, it can be harmful when it becomes excessive or when the focus is on negative thoughts.

On the other hand, rumination is a type of thinking where people repeatedly focus on negative thoughts and emotions. It can increase stress and anxiety and interfere with problem-solving and decision-making.

In comparison, reflection involves thinking about problems more constructively and can lead to greater insight and understanding.

Brooding is another type of rumination where people focus on negative thoughts and emotions without trying to find solutions. It can increase stress and anxiety and interfere with problem-solving and decision-making.

Speculating about problems is a type of thinking where people try to predict the outcomes of different scenarios, which can lead to increased stress and anxiety.

The Role of Co-Rumination in Relationships


It is a typical behavior among friends, involving a lot of self-disclosure and trust. In some cases, it can be beneficial, as it can help individuals find solutions to their problems. However, too much can be harmful, leading to stress and anxiety.


It can also occur between parents and children. It can be beneficial, as it can help children develop better-coping skills and improve their emotional regulation. However, parents should not rely solely on their children for emotional support.

The Impact of Co-Rumination in Relationships

When individuals engage in excessive co-rumination, it can lead to feelings of exhaustion and burnout. This can be particularly problematic in romantic relationships, leading to a lack of intimacy and emotional connection.

Co-Rumination and Mental Health


It has been found to be associated with increased symptoms of depression. This is because it can lead to a cycle of negative thoughts and feelings, which can exacerbate symptoms of depression.


Similarly, it has been linked to increased symptoms of anxiety. Individuals may become more focused on their worries and concerns, increasing anxiety and stress.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

It has also been found to be associated with symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This is because individuals with OCD often immerse in repetitive and ritualistic behaviors to cope with their anxiety and distress.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may also engage in the behavior to cope with their trauma. However, it can make symptoms of PTSD worse, as it can lead to a cycle of negative thoughts and feelings.

Eating Disorders

It has been found to be associated with eating disorders. This is because individuals with eating disorders may use it to cope with negative thoughts and feelings about their body image and food.

Co-Rumination Across Different Ages


It is typical behavior among children, particularly among girls. Children who do it tend to excessively talk about their problems and negative emotions with their peers. This behavior can increase stress, anxiety, and depression in children.


Adolescents are more likely to co-ruminate than children. It is often associated with increased levels of anxiety and depression. However, it can also serve as a coping mechanism for adolescents experiencing stress and emotional distress.

Gender Differences in Co-Rumination

Studies have found that girls co-ruminate at a higher rate than boys across a wide range of ages, from childhood to adolescence and into adulthood.

One reason for this gender difference may be related to the socialization of girls and boys. Girls are often encouraged to be more emotionally expressive and to seek out social support, while boys are encouraged to be more independent and self-reliant. As a result, girls may be more likely to immerse themselves in the behavior to process their emotions and seek comfort from others.

Not all girls participate in the behavior, and not all boys avoid it. Some studies have found that gender differences in co-rumination are smaller or nonexistent when other factors, such as personality traits or cultural norms, are considered.

The Psychological Impact of Co-Rumination

Positive Aspects

It can provide a sense of social support, a feeling of being understood, and a sense of belongingness. It can also help individuals process their emotions and thoughts in a safe and non-judgmental environment.

Negative Aspects

It can lead to an increase in emotional distress and depressive symptoms. It can also create a cycle of negative thought patterns, leading to maladaptive internalizing problems. The behavior can create shame and lead to adverse externalizing problems.

Co-Rumination and Coping Mechanisms


One way to address this is to focus on problem-solving. Encourage others to brainstorm solutions and take action steps towards resolving their issues.

Active Coping

Active coping involves taking direct action to manage stressors. When co-ruminating, shifting the conversation towards active coping strategies is vital. This can include exercise, relaxation techniques, and engaging in hobbies or activities that bring joy. Encourage others to take a break from discussing problems and do activities that promote positive emotions.


Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and accepting one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment. When co-ruminating, getting caught up in negative thoughts and emotions can be easy.

Encourage others to practice mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. This can help them stay grounded and present in the moment, rather than dwelling on problems.

Therapeutic Approaches to Co-Rumination

Therapy can be an effective way to address it. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common approach that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns. This can help individuals break the cycle by learning new coping skills and developing a more positive outlook.

Another therapeutic approach is interpersonal therapy (IPT), which focuses on improving communication and relationships. This can be particularly helpful for individuals who do it with close friends or family members. IPT can help individuals learn how to express their emotions healthily and set boundaries in their relationships.

Seeking emotional support from a trusted friend or family member can also be helpful. Finding someone who can provide a listening ear without getting caught up in the cycle is necessary. This person can offer a different perspective and help the individual focus on problem-solving rather than dwelling on negative thoughts.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the negative effects of excessive co-rumination?

It can lead to increased stress and anxiety and a decrease in overall well-being. It can also negatively impact relationships, as constant discussion of problems can become draining and overwhelming.

How does co-rumination differ from rumination?

While rumination involves individuals dwelling on their problems and negative thoughts, co-rumination involves two or more individuals constantly discussing and analyzing each other’s problems.

What are some synonyms for co-rumination?

Some synonyms include overthinking, obsessing, and dwelling.

Can you provide an example of co-rumination?

An example might be two friends constantly discussing their relationship problems and analyzing every aspect of their interactions.

What is the psychological definition of co-rumination?

The psychological definition is the excessive discussion and analysis of problems and negative thoughts with another person.

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