International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Volume 23 Num. 2 - June 2023


The Effect of Attention Disengagement on Anxiety and Emotion Maintenance: A Theoretical Perspective

Volume 23 Num. 2 - June 2023 - Pages 117-147


Grattery, Alex


Cognitive processes such as attention and working memory are necessary for cognitive components of anxiety and other emotions. Moreover, the content of working memory and attention may maintain anxiety states. By extension, disengaging from mood-congruent material in attention and working memory may stop the maintenance of emotions such as anxiety. However, common existing therapeutic techniques do not fully disengage attention and other cognitive engagements from mood-congruent thoughts, mental images, and urges. This paper theorizes that fully disengaging attention, but not awareness, of mood-congruent thoughts and images eliminates or nearly eliminates feelings of anxiety. This paper connects cognitive, neuroscientific, and clinical evidence on the role of attention and working memory in anxiety and other emotions with the Cognitive Disengagement Technique, a relatively novel clinical technique which is a core component of Rumination-Focused ERP. By doing so, the hypotheses presented in this paper are highly testable. Possible mechanisms of extinction learning and emotion regulation beyond anxiety alone are discussed, both of which have important implications for clinical practice.

How to cite this paper
Grattery A (2023). The Effect of Attention Disengagement on Anxiety and Emotion Maintenance: A Theoretical Perspective. International Journal of Psychology & Psychological Therapy, 23, 2, 117-147

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