- Vividness of general mental imagery is associated with the occurrence of intrusive memories
- Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
- Volume | Issue number
- 44 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
Background and objectives: Intrusive memories of traumatic events constitute a core feature of post-traumatic stress disorder. However, the association of pre-traumatic factors with post-traumatic intrusive memories is still only poorly understood. The current study investigated the extent to which vividness of general mental imagery prior to an analogue stressor is positively associated with occurrence of intrusive images following such a stressor.
Methods: Sixty-seven participants were exposed to video material depicting the aftermath of serious road traffic accidents. Additionally, participants filled in questionnaires on mental imagery, affect, peri-traumatic processing style, and intrusive memories.
Results: Vividness of mental imagery before the analogue stressor correlated positively with the amount, vividness, and emotional distress due to intrusive images shortly after the analogue stressor and on the subsequently five days. Importantly, mental imagery assessed pre-stressor was associated with intrusive memories independently of trait anxiety and depression as well as participants' emotional response to the video. Peri-traumatic data-driven processing was also related to intrusive memories but not to the vividness of pre-stressor mental imagery.
Limitations: An analogue design was used. Results need to be replicated in a prospective design with survivors of traumatic events according to DSM-IV criteria.
Conclusions: The findings indicate that high levels of vividness of general mental imagery may contribute to the development of intrusive imaginal memories following exposure to traumatic events.
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