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Skodzik, Timo; Zettler, Tatjana; Topper, Maurice; Blechert, Jens; Ehring, Thomas (2016): The effect of verbal and imagery-based worry versus distraction on the emotional response to a stressful in-vivo situation. In: Journal of Behavior therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, Vol. 52: pp. 51-58
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Abstract

Background and objectives: According to the Contrast Avoidance Model of worry, worrying induces prolonged negative affect and arousal and thereby suppresses sharp shifts in negative affect. The verbal and abstract nature of worry may be responsible for these effects as verbal thinking has been found to lead to less emotional and physiological responding than imagery. The present study was designed to test the Contrast Avoidance Model and to examine the role of verbal vs. imagery-based thinking during worrying.. Methods: 125 participants were exposed to a social-evaluative stressor. Before the stressor, they were randomized into three different groups (1) verbal worrying about the upcoming stressor, (2) imagery based worrying, or (3) distraction. Self-reported affect and physiological arousal, as well as heart rate, respiratory sinus arrhythmia and skin conductance level (SCL) were monitored. Results: In line with the Contrast Avoidance Model, worrisome thinking (1) led to immediately increased self-reported negative affect and arousal as well as SCL, but (2) attenuated a further increase in self reported negative affect and arousal in response to the stressor. No effect of style of worrying (verbal vs. imagery) was found.. Limitations: Effects were rather small and mostly confined to self-report data. Conclusion: By and large, our findings support the Contrast Avoidance Model of worry with regard to self-report measures and extend earlier findings by using an in-vivo stressor. The role of thinking style on the contrast avoidance effect as well as the contrast avoidance effect on physiological measures need to be explored in more detail.. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.