Date of Award

Summer 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)




Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology

Committee Director

Serina A. Neumann

Committee Member

Richard Handel

Committee Member

Karen Y. Holmes

Committee Member

Leonard Holmes

Committee Member

Robin Lewis


This study examined the relationship of anger coping style and relaxation techniques on cardiovascular reactivity and recovery in blood pressure (BP). Eighty-nine students from Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia participated. The participants were instructed to rest for ten minutes (baseline), complete a math task with harassment for 6 minutes (stressor), and engage in one of three recovery conditions (a standard control (SC), diaphragmatic breathing (DB), or mantra recitation (MR) without breathing instructions) for 10 minutes. The Spielberger State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory (STAXI) was utilized to measure trait anger coping style. Participants were compensated $25. It was hypothesized that DB would show the greatest reduction in BP during the recovery period and those individuals with high Anger-In or Anger-Out trait coping style scores would exhibit greater cardiovascular reactivity and slower cardiovascular recovery. It was also hypothesized that high cardiovascular reactivity would be associated with high baseline BP and anger coping style would moderate the effect of relaxation techniques on BP.

A planned (apriori) simple contrast revealed a significant effect for DB on diastolic blood pressure (DBP) during 10 minutes of recovery, F (1, 85) = 6.11, p < .05, such that DB demonstrated the greatest reduction in DBP in comparison to the SC and MR. Greater physiological responses to stress were not associated with higher baseline BP; baseline BP was not significantly related to BP reactivity for baseline systolic blood pressure (SBP) and SBP reactivity, r = .20, ns, for baseline SBP and DBP reactivity, r = .13, ns, for baseline DBP and DBP reactivity, r = .03, ns, or baseline DBP and SBP reactivity r = .16, ns. There were no significant results found to indicate an interaction or main effect of trait anger coping style by recovery condition on recovery BP. Given the significant result for DB's effectiveness at reducing DBP after a stressor, this information may be useful when treating hypertensive patients. Relaxation techniques should be considered an adjunctive treatment for high BP along with hypertensive medication as they can be cost effective at reducing BP.


A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculties of The College of William and Mary, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology through the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology.


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