Effects of arousal reappraisal on the anxiety responses to stress: breaking the cycle of negative arousal intensity and arousal interpretation

Annie T Ginty, Benjamin Oosterhoff, Danielle Young, Sarah Williams

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Abstract

Arousal reappraisal has been shown to be an effective strategy during stress to improve anxiety. However, the exact psychological mechanism through which arousal reappraisal improves anxiety is unknown. In a large, cross-sectional study (Study 1, N = 455) participants engaged in an acute psychological stress task and rated their levels of physiological arousal, cognitive anxiety, and somatic anxiety, and whether they perceived this physiological arousal, cognitive anxiety, and somatic anxiety as helpful or hurtful (i.e., interpretation). Structural equation models supported a previously hypothesized model demonstrating that higher levels of physiological arousal were interpreted more negatively and this negative interpretation was associated with higher levels of anxiety intensity and more negative interpretations of anxiety. In an independent sample (Study 2, N = 155), participants were randomly assigned to an arousal reappraisal intervention or control condition prior to engaging in the psychological stress task. Results indicated that arousal reappraisal resulted in more positive interpretations of physiological arousal and anxiety. Results also supported a previously hypothesized model demonstrating that arousal reappraisal ‘broke’ the connection between physiological arousal intensity and physiological arousal interpretation. The present studies suggest that arousal reappraisal could possibly be acting through improving interpretations of physiological arousal symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Early online date25 Aug 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 British Psychological Society

Keywords

  • anxiety
  • reappraisal
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology

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