Characteristics of illness intrusions in a non-clinical sample

Behav Res Ther. 2004 Jun;42(6):683-96. doi: 10.1016/S0005-7967(03)00191-8.


This study examines whether illness intrusions can be distinguished from obsessional intrusions and worries. It also assesses the relationship between strategies, thought characteristics, and appraisal of illness intrusions. Two hundred and forty-three non-clinical participants identified an obsessive intrusive thought, a worry, and an illness intrusion. They evaluated each thought using items from the Cognitive Intrusions Questionnaire. The comparisons of intrusions showed that illness intrusions share characteristics of worries and obsessional intrusions, but also have their own characteristics. Illness intrusions seem to be particularly egosyntonic. The relationships between the strategies used to counter illness intrusions and their appraisal were also tested. Results support the idea that there are specific links between the evaluation of cognitive intrusions and the way they are processed. It demonstrated that escape/avoidance strategies are associated with the egodystonic nature of the thought and that problem-focused strategies are associated with the thought's basis in reality. Illness intrusions may be conceptualised as either obsessions or worries. This study demonstrated that the category of an intrusive thought might not be as important as the way it is processed. It seems more important to consider appraisal of the disturbing thought and the way in which the person subsequently reacts and behaves.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Thinking*