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Title: Why does worry persist?
Author: Stefanopoulou, Evgenia
ISNI:       0000 0004 2717 9602
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2011
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Background & Aims: Perseverative worry constitutes a cardinal feature of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and has been thought to be crucial in the maintenance of the disorder. According to the Processing Efficiency Theory (Eysenck & Calvo, 1992), worry consumes working memory capacities, leading therefore to worry perseveration. This thesis sought to examine such capacities in healthy participants and determine whether and how these may be compromised in individuals diagnosed with GAD. Methods: To examine residual working memory capacities, participants performed a randomization task while thinking about a worry or positive topic. To explore whether limitations in randomization might reflect more general attentional deficits, participants also performed a single working memory task without concurrent task demands. Results GAD participants were less random than healthy participants, irrespective of task condition. Although GAD individuals were less random while worrying compared to the positive condition, healthy participants did not show such differences. Moreover, GAD participants required longer reaction times to perform the higher load conditions of the single working memory task relative to healthy participants. Conclusions: Results provide further empirical support that GAD individuals have less residual working memory capacity when worrying and, thus, fewer attentional resources available to redirect their thoughts away from worry (and onto other tasks). GAD participants exhibited attentional deficits during the higher load conditions of the single task, suggesting they were less able to sustain focus on tasks requiring a high degree of attentional control, even without concurrent task demands. Findings implicate depletion of working memory capacities in-the pathophysiology of GAD and suggest that exploring further the impact of the worrying process on such capacities may be of great clinical significance. Findings may be valuable in delineating possible vulnerability and protective factors to the development of GAD and help inform early and effective interventions for this debilitating disorder.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available