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Psychosom Med. 2002 Sep-Oct;64(5):714-26.

The role of rumination in recovery from reactivity: cardiovascular consequences of emotional states.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, University of California, Irvine, 92626, USA.



While most investigations of the link between blood pressure responses and later disease have focused on acute reactivity during stressful tasks, there is some theoretical and empirical reason to believe that examining recovery and later re-creations of BP responses may also be useful. Two experiments explored situational determinants of sustained BP elevations, examining whether the extent of recovery and the ability to later mentally recreate the response are influenced by the magnitude or emotionality of the initial task and also whether preventing rumination after a stressor has ended speeds recovery.


Experiment 1, with 72 normotensive male and female undergraduates, examined BP and heart rate before, during, and after a task and also before, during, and after the mental re-creation of that task. Four tasks were used, designed to produce high initial reactivity with an emotional component (mental arithmetic with harassment), low reactivity with emotion (shock avoidance), high reactivity without emotion (physical exercise), or low reactivity without emotion (cold pressor). Experiment 2, with 20 normotensive male and female undergraduates, compared the cardiovascular recovery of persons who were either given a distractor task or just sat quietly immediately after a mental arithmetic task.


Study 1 revealed that only the emotional tasks were associated with delayed BP recovery and elevations during later rumination. Blood pressure during recovery and later rumination was independent of the original reactivity. Experiment 2 found that participants with the distractor, who presumably could not ruminate, showed better BP recovery.


Situations that put people at risk may include not just those that cause large BP elevations, but also emotion-producing situations that lead to sustained and recurring elevations.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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