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Distinct and Overlapping Features of Rumination and Worry: The Relationship of Cognitive Production to Negative Affective States


Worry and rumination are cognitive processes, often represented as verbal or linguistic activities. Despite similarities in definition and description, worry has been most closely examined in relation to anxiety whereas rumination has traditionally been related to depression. This distinction remains in spite of high rates of comorbidity between anxiety and depression. This study sought to better understand the distinct and overlapping features of worry and rumination as well as their relationship to anxiety and depression. Seven hundred eighty-four unselected college students completed self-report measures of worry, rumination, anxiety, and depression. Items from the respective worry and rumination scales were submitted to factor analysis, which revealed a four-factor solution comprised of 2 worry factors and 2 rumination factors. A Worry Engagement factor as well as a Dwelling on the Negative factor emerged as distilled measures of worry and rumination, respectively. Scores on these factors were highly correlated with each other and demonstrated equally strong relationships to both anxiety and depression. Findings from this study suggest that worry and rumination represent related but distinct cognitive processes that are similarly related to anxiety and depression.

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Fresco, D.M., Frankel, A.N., Mennin, D.S. et al. Distinct and Overlapping Features of Rumination and Worry: The Relationship of Cognitive Production to Negative Affective States. Cognitive Therapy and Research 26, 179–188 (2002).

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  • worry
  • rumination
  • anxiety
  • depression