Perseverative Cognition, Psychopathology, and Somatic Health
Perseverative cognition (PC), such as worry and rumination, is a common reaction to stressful events in everyday life. According to the PC hypothesis, prolonged cognitive representations of stressful events will increase the total amount of time that these events have a “wear and tear” effect on the human body. In this chapter, we provide an overview of the role that PC plays in the onset and maintenance of stress related mental and somatic health problems. Furthermore, we propose that unconscious PC, traditionally studied within the context of psychopathology, might have substantial somatic health relevant effects as well. Finally, we present a self-regulation perspective on PC and propose that it forms part of the default response to threat, novelty and ambiguity. This default response is enhanced in chronic worriers who show excessive commitment to their goals, use PC as a strategy to cope with possible threats to goal attainment and have difficulties to recognize signals of safety. In conclusion, research on the PC hypothesis has provided valuable insight into the link between stressful events, psychopathology, and somatic health.
KeywordsStressful Event Neutral Word Emotion Regulation Strategy Health Complaint Somatic Disease
This writing of this chapter was financially supported by grants from The Ohio State University, Department of Psychology.
- MacLeod, C., Rutherford, E., Campbell, L., Ebsworthy, G., & Holker, L. (2002) Selective attention and emotional vulnerability: Assessing the causal basis of their association through the experimental manipulation of attentional bias.Journal of Abnormal Psychology,111, 107–123.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Martin, L. L., & Tesser, A. (1996) Some ruminative thoughts. In R. S. Wyer (Ed.),Ruminative thoughts: Advances in social cognition, Volume IX (pp. 1–47). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
- Nitschke, J. B., Sarinopoulos, I., Oathes, D. J., Johnstone, T., Whalen, P. J., Davidson, R. J., et al. (2009) Anticipatory activation in the amygdala and anterior cingulate in generalized anxiety disorder and prediction of treatment response.American Journal of Psychiatry,166, 302–310.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Verkuil, B., Brosschot, J. F., Borkovec, T. D., & Thayer, J. F. (2009) Acute autonomic effects of experimental worry and cognitive problem solving: Why worry about worry?International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology,9, 439–453.Google Scholar
- Williams, J. M., Watts, F. N., MacLeod, C., & Mathews, A. (1997)Cognitive psychology and emotional disorders. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Wood, J. V., & Dodgson, P. G. (1996) When is self-focused attention an adaptive coping response? Rumination and overgeneralization versus compensation. In I. G. Sarason, G. R. Pierce, & B. R. Sarason (Eds.),Cognitive interference: theories, methods, and findings (pp. 231–259). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar