Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 671–688 | Cite as

Worry and Rumination: Repetitive Thought as a Concomitant and Predictor of Negative Mood

  • Suzanne C. Segerstrom
  • Jennie C. I. Tsao
  • Lynn E. Alden
  • Michelle G. Craske


Worry and depressive rumination have both been described as unproductive, repetitive thought which contributes to anxiety or depression, respectively. It was hypothesized that repetitive thought, rather than its specific forms, is a general concomitant of negative mood. Study 1 was a cross-sectional test of the hypothesis. Repetitive thought was positively correlated with anxiety and depression in students (n = 110). In patients (n = 40), repetitive thought was positively correlated with anxiety and depression, and rumination was also specifically correlated with depression. Study 2 was a prospective test of the hypothesis. In students (n = 90), there were significant cross-sectional relationships between repetitive thought and both anxiety and depression. In addition, repetitive thought at least partially predicted maintenance of anxious symptoms. Phenomena such as goal interruption, failures of emotional processing, and information processing may lead to repetitive thought which increases negative mood states, including both anxiety and depression.

worry rumination anxiety depression 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
  2. Beck, A. T. (1967). Depression: Clinical, experimental, and theoretical aspects. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  3. Beck, A. T., Brown, G., Steer, R. A., Eidelson, J. I., & Riskind, J. H. (1987). Differentiating anxiety and depression: A test of the cognitive content-specificity hypothesis. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 96, 179-183.Google Scholar
  4. Beck, A. T., Epstein, N., Brown, G., & Steer, R. A. (1988). An inventory for measuring clinical anxiety: Psychometric properties. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56, 893-897.Google Scholar
  5. Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., & Garbin, M. G. (1988). Psychometric properties of the Beck Depression Inventory: Twenty-five years of evaluation. Clinical Psychology Review, 8, 77-100.Google Scholar
  6. Bentler, P. M. (1995). EQS structural equations program manual. Encino, CA: Multivariate Software.Google Scholar
  7. Bentler, P. M., & Wu, E. J. C. (1995). EQS for Windows user's guide. Encino, CA: Multivariate Software.Google Scholar
  8. Borkovec, T. D., & Hu, S. (1990). The effect of worry on cardiovascular response to phobic imagery. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 28, 69-73.Google Scholar
  9. Borkovec, T. D., Lyonfields, J. D., Wiser, S. L., & Deihl, L. (1993). The role of worrisome thinking in the suppression of the cardiovascular response to phobic imagery. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 31, 321-324.Google Scholar
  10. Borkovec, T. D., Robinson, E., Pruzinsky, T., & DePree, J. A. (1983). Preliminary exploration of worry: Some characteristics and process. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 21, 9-16.Google Scholar
  11. Brewin, C. R. (1996). Cognitive processing of adverse experiences. International Review of Psychiatry, 8, 333-339.Google Scholar
  12. Brewin, C. R., Dagleish, T., & Joseph, S. (1996). A dual representation theory of posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychological Review, 103, 670-686.Google Scholar
  13. Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (1982). Control theory: A useful conceptual framework for personalitysocial, clinical, and health psychology. Psychological Bulletin, 92, 111-135.Google Scholar
  14. Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (1990). Origins and functions of positive and negative affect: A control-process view. Psychological Review, 97, 19-35.Google Scholar
  15. Clark, D. M., Beck, A. T., & Brown, G. (1989). Cognitive mediation in general psychiatric outpatients: A test of the content-specificity hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 958-964.Google Scholar
  16. Clark, D. M., & Wells, A. (1995). A cognitive model of social phobia. In R. G. Heimberg & M. R. Liebowitz (Eds.), Social phobia: Diagnosis, assessment, and treatment. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  17. Clark, L. A., & Watson, D. (1991). Tripartite model of anxiety and depression: Psychometric evidence and taxonomic implications. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 100, 316-336.Google Scholar
  18. Davey, G. C. L. (1994). Pathological worrying as exacerbated problem-solving. In G. C. L. Davey & F. Tallis (Eds.), Worrying: Perspectives on theory, assessment, and treatment. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  19. Dugas, M. J., Freeston, M. H., & Ladouceur, R. (1997). Intolerance of uncertainty and problem orientation in worry. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 21, 593-606.Google Scholar
  20. Finlay-Jones, R., & Brown, G. W. (1981). Types of stressful life event and the onset of anxiety and depressive disorders. Psychological Medicine, 11, 803-815.Google Scholar
  21. Foa, E. B., & Kozac, M. J. (1986). Emotional processing of fear: Exposure to corrective information. Psychological Bulletin, 99, 20-35.Google Scholar
  22. Gotlib, I. H. (1984). Depression and general psychopathology in university students. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 93, 19-30.Google Scholar
  23. Hoehn-Saric, R., McLeod, D. R., & Zimmerli, W. D. (1989). Somatic manifestations in women with generalized anxiety disorder: Psychophysiological repsonses to psychological stress. Archives of General Psychiatry, 46, 1113-1119.Google Scholar
  24. Ingram, R. E. (1984). Toward an information-processing analysis of depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 8, 443-478.Google Scholar
  25. Ingram, R. E. (1990). Self-focused attention in clinical disorders: Review and a conceptual model. Psychological Bulletin, 107, 156-176.Google Scholar
  26. Kendall, P. C., & Ingram, R. E. (1989). Cognitive-behavioral perspectives: Theory and research on depression and anxiety. In P. C. Kendall & D. Watson (Eds.), Anxiety and depression. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  27. Kendall, P. C., & Watson, D. (1989). Anxiety and depression. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  28. Lader, M. H., & Wing, L. (1964). Habituation of the psycho-galvanic reflex in patient with anxiety states and in normal subjects. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, 27, 210-218.Google Scholar
  29. Lang, P. J. (1977). Physiological assessment of anxiety and fear. In J. D. Cone & R. P. Hawkins (Eds.), Behavioral assessment: New directions in clinical psychology. New York: Brunner/Mazel.Google Scholar
  30. Lyonfields, J. D., Borkovec, T. D., & Thayer, J. F. (1995). Vagal tone in generalized anxiety disorder and the effects of aversive imagery and worrisome thinking. Behavior Therapy, 26, 457-466.Google Scholar
  31. Lyubomirsky, S., & Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (1995). Effects of self-focused rumination on negative thinking and interpersonal problem-solving. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 176-190.Google Scholar
  32. Martin, L., & Tesser, A. (1989). Toward a motivational and structural theory of ruminative thought. In J. S. Uleman & J. A. Bargh (Eds.), Unintended thought. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  33. McIntosh, W. D., & Martin, L. L. (1992). The cybernetics of happiness: The relation of goal attainment, rumination, and affect. Review of Personality and Social Psychology, 14, 222-246.Google Scholar
  34. Meyer, T. J., Miller, M. L., Metzger, R. L., & Borkovec, T. D. (1990). Development and validation of the Penn State Worry Questionnaire. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 28, 487-495.Google Scholar
  35. Molina, S., & Borkovec, T. D. (1994). The Penn State Worry Questionnaire: Psychometric properties and associated characteristics. In G. C. L. Davies & F. Tallis (Eds.), Worrying: Perspectives on theory, assessment, and treatment. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  36. Molina, S., & Borkovec, T. D. Peasley, C., & Person, D. (1998). Content analysis of worrisome streams of thought in anxious and dysphoric participants. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 22, 109-123.Google Scholar
  37. Nix, G., Watson, C., Pyszczynski, T., & Greenberg, J. (1995). Reducing depressive affect through external focus of attention. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 14, 36-52.Google Scholar
  38. Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (1991). Responses to depression and their effects on the duration of depressive episodes. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 100, 569-582.Google Scholar
  39. Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Morrow, J. (1991). A prospective study of depression and posttraumatic stress symptoms after a natural disaster: The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 115-121.Google Scholar
  40. Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Morrow, J. (1993). Effects of rumination and distraction on naturally occurring depressed mood. Cognition and Emotion, 7, 561-570.Google Scholar
  41. Nolen-Hoeksema, S., Morrow, J., & Fredrickson, B. L. (1993). Response styles and the duration of episodes of depressed mood. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 102, 20-28.Google Scholar
  42. Pennebaker, J. W. (1997). Writing about emotional experiences as a therapeutic process. Psychological Science, 8, 162-165.Google Scholar
  43. Pyszczynski, T., & Greenberg, J. (1987). Self-regulatory perseveration and the depressive self-focusing style: A self-awareness theory of reactive depression. Psychological Bulletin, 102, 122-138.Google Scholar
  44. Roemer, L., & Borkovec, T. D. (1993). Worry: Unwanted cognitive activity that controls unwanted somatic experience. In D. M. Wegner & J. W. Pennebaker (Eds.), Handbook of mental control (pp. 220-238). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  45. Smith, T. W., Ingram, R. E., & Roth, L. D. (1985). Self-focused attention and depression: Self-evaluation, affect, and life stress. Motivation and Emotion, 9, 381-389.Google Scholar
  46. Stanton, A. L., Danoff-Burg, S., Cameron, C. L., & Ellis, A. P. (1994). Coping through emotional approach: Problems of conceptualization and confounding. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 350-362.Google Scholar
  47. Starcevic, V. (1995). Pathological worry in major depression: A preliminary report. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 33, 55-56.Google Scholar
  48. Watson, D., & Clark, L. A. (1984). Negative affectivity: The disposition to experience aversive emotional states. Psychological Bulletin, 96, 465-490.Google Scholar
  49. Wells, A., & Papageorgiou, C. (1995). Worry and the incubation of intrusive images following stress. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 3, 579-583.Google Scholar
  50. Woody, S., & Rachman, S. (1994). Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) as a unsuccessful search for safety. Clinical Psychology Review, 14, 743-753.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Suzanne C. Segerstrom
    • 1
  • Jennie C. I. Tsao
    • 2
  • Lynn E. Alden
    • 3
  • Michelle G. Craske
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of KentuckyLexington
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos Angeles
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

Personalised recommendations