Psychopathology and thought suppression: a quantitative review

Clin Psychol Rev. 2012 Apr;32(3):189-201. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2012.01.001. Epub 2012 Jan 25.

Abstract

Recent theories of psychopathology have suggested that thought suppression intensifies the persistence of intrusive thoughts, and proposed that difficulty with thought suppression may differ between groups with and without psychopathology. The current meta-analytic review evaluates empirical evidence for difficulty with thought suppression as a function of the presence and specific type of psychopathology. Based on theoretical proposals from the psychopathology literature, diagnosed and analogue samples were expected to show greater recurrence of intrusive thoughts during thought suppression attempts than non-clinical samples. However, results showed no overall differences in the recurrence of thoughts due to thought suppression between groups with and without psychopathology. There was, nevertheless, variation in the recurrence of thoughts across different forms of psychopathology, including relatively less recurrence during thought suppression for samples with symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, compared to non-clinical samples. However, these differences were typically small and provided only mixed support for existing theories. Implications for cognitive theories of intrusive thoughts are discussed, including proposed mechanisms underlying thought suppression.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Psychopathology*
  • Repression, Psychology*
  • Thinking*
  • Young Adult