Cardiovascular responses occur not only in the immediate presence of stressors, but also while later thinking about those experiences. Evidence suggests that these delayed responses, such as those produced by ruminating about prior angering experiences, may play an important role in the development of cardiovascular disease. We examine whether physiological consequences of rumination depend on the delay between a stressor and its recall, and whether the magnitude of physiological responses decreases with repetition. Twenty-two participants experienced a three-minute harassment stressor, and later spent 3 min vividly recalling the task. Half the subjects returned for the first time after a week, and half returned after half an hour, and then also after a week. Blood pressure and heart rate were monitored during a baseline period, and during each session's stressor or rumination period. Results indicated that rumination was sufficient to elevate blood pressure (systolic and diastolic) above baseline, that the delay made no difference to the magnitude of the elevation, but that the second rumination seemed to be associated with a smaller response than the first. Response to the stressor was not associated with rumination responses, but the first rumination response was significantly correlated with the second. The effects of stress may be experienced long after the actual stressor is passed, and people who experience large delayed responses may not be the same as those with high initial responses. The "hot" affective portion of rumination may not be diminished by the passage of time, but by prior recreation of the experience.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Physiology (medical)