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Behav Res Ther. 2007 Sep;45(9):2053-65. Epub 2007 Mar 19.

Intrusive images in PTSD and in traumatised and non-traumatised depressed patients: a cross-sectional clinical study.

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Klinik fuer Schlafmedizin, St.Anna-Str. 32, 6006 Luzern, Switzerland.


Although intrusive images are a hallmark of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and also occur in depression, little is known about the differences and similarities of such images in these conditions. Our study focuses on the qualities and triggers of intrusive images and responses to them in three groups--patients with PTSD, and depressed patients with and without trauma (n=65)-to highlight the diagnostic specificity of intrusive images for PTSD and depression. We distinguished intrusive images from verbal intrusive cognitions such as rumination and intrusive (brief) lexical thoughts. Consistent with the literature, the intrusive images of PTSD patients had a more "here-and-now quality" and were perceived more visually compared to those of both depressed groups. The groups showed a good deal of similarity concerning other image qualities. Most importantly, the intrusive images in PTSD and depressed patients with and without trauma were perceived as similarly distressing. Rumination and intrusive (brief) lexical thoughts were two of the five most named triggers of intrusive images. Limitations, such as the lack of a control group, and the clinical implications of these results are discussed, demonstrating the need to help non-PTSD patients with and without trauma to deal with intrusive images.

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