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Correlational studies have shown that trauma-related rumination predicts chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This study aimed to experimentally test the hypothesis that rumination is causally involved in the development and maintenance of PTSD symptoms. A video depicting the aftermath of serious road traffic accidents was used as an analogue stressor. After having watched the video, N=101 healthy participants were randomly assigned to a guided thinking task designed to induce (a) rumination, (b) memory integration and (c) distraction. In line with the hypotheses, rumination led to less recovery from sad mood triggered by the video than the other two conditions. In addition, self-reported state levels of rumination during the guided thinking task predicted subsequent intrusive memories in the session. However, no significant main effect of the experimental manipulation on intrusive memories of the video was found. Results of exploratory analyses suggested possible sex differences in the way the processing manipulations were effective. Taken together, the results partially support the hypothesis that rumination is involved in the maintenance of negative mood and post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Original publication




Journal article


J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry

Publication Date





499 - 514


Adaptation, Psychological, Adolescent, Adult, Affect, Anxiety, Depression, Female, Humans, Imagination, Life Change Events, Male, Memory, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic, Stress, Psychological, Surveys and Questionnaires, Young Adult