Rumination in the Context of Anger and Sadness: Differential Effects on State Agitation

Keyne C. Law, Seattle Pacific University. Electronic address:
Megan L. Rogers, Florida State University; Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
Raymond P. Tucker, Louisiana State University.
Brian W. Bauer, University of Southern Mississippi.
Daniel W. Capron, University of Southern Mississippi.
Michael D. Anestis, University of Southern Mississippi.
Thomas E. Joiner, Florida State University.


BACKGROUND: Agitation is an important transdiagnostic factor for several mental health disorders and a significant risk factor for dangerous or maladaptive coping behaviors. How an individual responds to experiences of agitation itself may also play a crucial role in conferring risk towards maladaptive behaviors. Specifically, ruminating on high arousal emotions, such as anger, will also be more likely to initiate and maintain agitation, thereby increasing risk for impulsive and maladaptive behaviors. METHODS: Undergraduate students (N=117) were randomly assigned to an emotion induction condition (i.e., control, sadness only, anger only, sadness and anger) followed by either a control condition or a rumination induction. They completed measures on subjective emotional state and agitation at baseline, after emotion induction, after rumination induction, and at the end of session. RESULTS: Agitation was influenced by negative affect broadly with each experimental condition leading to agitation. Anger influenced momentary change in agitation and sustained agitation when combined with rumination. LIMITATIONS: The majority of participants in the current study were young, white females and the findings may not generalize to individuals of diverse genders and cultures who may have experience and cope with agitation differently. CONCLUSIONS: Recognizing and mitigating rumination during moments of anger may help decrease a clients' use of problematic coping behaviors.