The Role of Irrational Beliefs, Brooding and Reflective Pondering in Predicting Distress

By Szasz, Paul Lucian | Journal of Evidence-Based Psychotherapies, March 2011 | Go to article overview

The Role of Irrational Beliefs, Brooding and Reflective Pondering in Predicting Distress


Szasz, Paul Lucian, Journal of Evidence-Based Psychotherapies


Abstract

The present study investigated the relationships between two forms of ruminative thoughts, brooding, and reflective processing, in relation with irrational beliefs and their impact on distress. While significant amount of data support the role of irrational beliefs and depressive rumination as vulnerability factors in distress, no attempts have been made so far to study the relationships between these individual characteristics. Participants completed a battery of questionnaires including measures of the above constructs. Results show that irrational beliefs, brooding and reflective pondering are related to distress, and that the impact of irrational beliefs on distress is completely mediated by brooding. The role of irrational beliefs and different types of ruminative processing, their effects on distress, potential mechanisms and implications are discussed.

Keywords: irrational beliefs, brooding, reflective pondering, distress

Introduction

Rumination

Research on rumination as an emotion regulation strategy has focused in early studies on its relations with depression. One of the most influential frameworks on rumination is Nolen-Hoeksema's Response Style Theory (1987). This theory assumes that depressed people often put much more effort that their non-depressed counterparts in trying to cognitively regulate their emotions in order to achieve a positive desired mental state. However, there is evidence that they often fail, and engage in counterproductive mental control strategies such as depressive rumination (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1991, 1998, 2000) or chronic thought suppression (Wenzlaff & Bates, 1998; Wegner & Zanakos, 1994). According to the Response Style Theory (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1991), rumination is a process whereby one turns one's attention to the causes and consequences of depressive symptoms. Nolen-Hoeksema and her colleagues also showed that rumination in the context of depressed moods prolongs and exacerbates depressive symptoms (Marrow & Nolen-Hoeksema, 1990).

Evidence from longitudinal studies reveals that depressive rumination predicts increases in self-reported depressive symptoms across periods of a few days or weeks (Butler & Nolen-Hoeksema, 1994; Segerstrom, Tsao, Craske & Alden, 2000) to one year (Nolen-Hoeksema, Larson & Grayson, 1999) Rumination also predicts the onset of major depression over one year (Nolen- Hoeksema, 2000; Aldao, Nolen-Hoeksema & Schweizer, 2010). Longitudinal studies also showed that in naturally occurring depressed moods, people who respond to these moods with rumination experience longer periods of depressed mood (Nolen-Hoeksema & Morow, 1991; Nolen-Hoeksema, Morrow & Frederickson, 1993).

Evidence from laboratory studies shows that among dysphoric individuals, a ruminative task leads to the persistence of depressive mood, whereas a distracting task leads to decreases in such mood (Lyubomirsky & Nolen-Hoeksema, 1993, 1995; Nolen-Hoeksema & Morrow, 1993). Recent studies have extended these findings to clinical depression (Just & Alloy, 1997; Nolen-Hoeksema, 2000; Raes et al., 2006). Rumination also predicts elevated levels of depressive symptoms (Just & Alloy, 1997) and episodes of major depression (Kuehner & Weber, 1999). Kuehner and Weber (1999) revealed that among unipolar depressed inpatients, those who had a ruminative style had higher levels of depression and were more likely to show signs of a major depressive episode at four months after discharge. It has also been found that in the interaction between rumination and negative cognition, the tendency to ruminate in response to stressful life events is more strongly predictive of future episodes of major and hopeless depression among individuals who reported high levels of negative thought content than among individuals who reported low levels (Robinson & Alloy, 2003). Regarding the negative consequences of rumination, some studies also found that, compared to depressed people induced to distract, or non-depressed people who either ruminate or distract, depressed people when induced to ruminate generate more negative memories from the past (Lyubomirsky, Caldwell & Nolen-Hoeksema, 1998), are more negative in their evaluations of current situations (Lyubomirsky & Nolen-Hoeksema, 1995), and are more pessimistic in their expectations for the future (Lyubomirsky & Nolen- Hoeksema, 1995). …

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