ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
 Volume 1, Issue 1, 87-118, 2010
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When Worries Make You Sick: A Review of Perseverative Cognition, the Default Stress Response and Somatic Health

Bart Verkuil, PhD (1), Jos F. Brosschot, PhD (1), Winifred A. Gebhardt, PhD (1), Julian F. Thayer, PhD (2)
(1) Clinical, Health and Neuropsychology Unit, Institute of Psychology, Leiden University
(2) Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University

Volume 1, Issue 1, 2010, Pages 87-118

Perseverative cognition, such as worry and rumination, is a common reaction to stressful events. In this review, we present a self-regulation perspective on perseverative cognition 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 difficulties in recognizing signals of safety, due to excessive goal commitment and the use of perseverative cognition as a strategy to cope with perceived threats to goal attainment. It is proposed that worrying about stressful events increases the total amount of time that stress has a 'wear and tear' effect on the human body. Studies supporting this perseverative cognition hypothesis are reviewed. Moreover, we provide preliminary evidence that unconscious forms of perseverative cognition have substantial somatic health effects as well. In conclusion, a focus on perseverative cognition is warranted when investigating links between stressful events and somatic health.

Table of Contents
Introducing the perseverative cognition hypothesis
   The concept and prevalence of perseverative cognition
A self regulation perspective on perseverative cognition
   The default response to novelty, uncertainty and threat
   Perseverative cognition as a failure to recognize safety
   Factors determining prolonged responding to stressful events
Perseverative cognition and somatic health
   Subjective Somatic Health.
   Somatic effects of implicit PC

Correspondence to
Bart Verkuil at Leiden University, Division of Clinical and Health Psychology, P.O. Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden.

perseverative cognition; worry; rumination; stress; health

Received 30 Apr 2010; Revised 7 Oct 2010; Accepted 8 Oct 2010; In Press 31 Oct 2010

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