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Memory. 2016 Aug;24(7):939-48. doi: 10.1080/09658211.2015.1059860. Epub 2015 Aug 14.

Rumination and self-defining memories in the context of health concerns.

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a School of Psychology , University of New South Wales (UNSW) , Kensington , Australia.
b Kids Cancer Centre , Sydney Children's Hospital , Randwick , Australia.
c School of Women's and Children's Health , University of New South Wales (UNSW) , Kensington , Australia.


Individuals with health anxiety report experiencing a strong sense of vulnerability to illness. Such beliefs may be driven by the biased recollection of past illness-related events. However, little research has explored the role of memory in health anxiety. In other disorders, rumination has also been identified as a process that leads individuals to recall memories dominated by the content of their concerns. This study examined the proposition that rumination might impact the content of "self-defining" autobiographical memories among 60 college students with varying health anxiety (35% with clinical-level health anxiety). Participants were randomised to experiential/ruminative self-focus conditions, and then they completed the Self-Defining Memory Task. Responses were coded for valence and illness-relatedness. Results indicated that rumination led participants to retrieve more illness-related self-defining memories, while higher health anxiety scores were associated with more negative, but not more illness-focused memories. Ruminative thinking appears to activate health concerns, and may play a role in maintaining ongoing health anxiety.


Autobiographical memory; Health anxiety; Illness anxiety disorder; Rumination; Self

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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