Chronic worry as avoidance of arousal

Louis B. Laguna, Lindsay S. Ham, Debra A. Hope, Christopher Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Previous research suggests that worry is primarily a verbal-linguistic activity that may serve as a method of cognitive avoidance of fearful imagery. The purpose of the present study was to examine cognitive avoidance in high worriers (N = 22) and low worriers (N = 24) using psychophysiological measures and a modified dichotic listening task. The task involved presenting neutral words into an unattending ear while worry or neutral scenarios were presented into the attending ear. Participants were given a surprise word recognition test of the words presented to provide evidence of cognitive avoidance beyond self-report. Contrary to the hypotheses, high worriers did not have less physiological reactivity than did low worriers. Low worriers recognized more words than did high worriers overall. High worriers remembered more words from the worry scenario than the neutral condition, as would be expected if they attempted to avoid the worry scenario. Implications for treatment of worry and the use of the dichotic listening task in researching worry are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-281
Number of pages13
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2004


  • Anxiety
  • Arousal
  • Cognitive avoidance
  • Worry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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