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Rumination: From Basic Mechanisms to Intervention

Ethan Kross, Ph.D. and Julian F. Thayer, Ph.D.

Rumination is the continuous thinking about negative experiences that can influence behaviors in negative ways. Rumination is relevant for research study because it affects the body`s autonomic balance, which can increase risk factors for heart disease and stroke, including hypertension, diabetes, and cholesterol. An individual`s response to a stressor (the fight or flight response) is an adaptive function that provides safety for the individual, yet when a stressor is not present, a person who ruminates remains in a state of response, which can lead to organic diseases. Worry prolongs the stress response by anticipatory activation, slow recovery and sustained activation, recurrent or repeated activation, or anything that prolongs exposure to the stressor or its cognitive representation. Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder are both associated with increased adverse cardiac events, and individuals who had elevated trait anxiety levels before CABG surgery were more likely to die after surgery than those who had low levels of anxiety. This finding has implications for death and also money. Self-distancing can at times be helpful, but it depends on context. Adversely, it can reduce positive affect and physiological reactivity.


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