Specific Cognitive Content of Anxiety and Catastrophizing: Looming Vulnerability and the Looming Maladaptive Style

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Abstract

The present study examined the hypothesis, stimulated by the looming vulnerability model of anxiety (Riskind, 1997), that the mental activity of catastrophizing is related to both the general looming maladaptive style and looming vulnerability to potential catastrophes. The looming maladaptive style is a higher-order, more global and abstract characteristic framework that functions as a danger schema to produce cognitive vulnerability to anxiety, whereas looming vulnerability to potential catastrophes is a lowerorder sense of looming vulnerability to potential catastrophes in specific situations. In addition, the present study attempted to replicate the findings of Vasey and Borkovec (1992) between catastrophizing, worry, and likelihood, using a self-report version of the structured interview in their study. One hundred thirty-eight undergraduates completed the self-report measure of catastrophizing (LOCO-Q), the looming maladaptive style questionnaire, and several measures of worry. Our results provide strong evidence for the replicability of Vasey and Borkovec's (1992) findings and provide new evidence for a broader role of looming vulnerability in the cognitive phenomenology of catastrophizing. Specifically, they demonstrate that both looming vulnerability to potential catastrophes and the looming maladaptive style are integrally related to the mental activity of catastrophizing. Further, results suggest the plausibility of a mediated model in which the effects of the general looming maladaptive style are transmitted through specific looming vulnerability to possible catastrophes to produce higher levels of catastrophizing. Additionally, results suggest that the looming maladaptive style is the only variable that significantly predicts gains in catastrophizing over time. The results of this study are consistent with a series of studies that we have conducted in the last several years, demonstrating that the looming maladaptive style functions as a danger schema for threat-related information and produces a cognitive vulnerability to anxiety.

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