Research Portfolio submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctorate in Clinical Psychology
: Research Paper: Everyday experiences of intrusive thoughts and images in individuals with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder

  • Rosie Oldham-Cooper

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy)


Background: Holmes et al (2008) posited that mental imagery acts as an ‘emotional amplifier’ in bipolar disorder, leading to the shifts in mood that are a hallmark of the condition. Evidence for this idea comes largely from retrospective studies. No study has, to the author’s knowledge, explored experiences of mental imagery as they occur in the day-to-day lives of individuals with bipolar disorder. This approach has the advantage of greater ecological validity, minimising confounds associated with retrospective recall. Method: Twelve individuals with a diagnosis of Bipolar I or II disorder and 20 non-clinical controls completed a diary of intrusive mental images and verbal thoughts twice-daily for seven days. Thoughts and images were rated on a number of dimensions, including ‘intensity’ and ‘vividness’.Results: Individuals with bipolar disorder reported significantly more ‘intense’ experiences of intrusive mental imagery compared to controls, but there were no significant differences in frequency or intensity of verbal thoughts, although the small number of participants in the bipolar disorder group means the study may have lacked power to detect significant group differences. Vividness of mental images was also higher in the bipolar disorder group.Conclusions: The findings provide support for Holmes et al’s (2008) model, using assessment of intrusive verbal thoughts and mental images in a naturalistic setting. The main benefit was greater ecological validity compared to previous retrospective studies. The study also demonstrated that it is possible to elicit reports of these phenomena using diaries in a bipolar disorder population.
Date of Award31 Aug 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorJames Gregory (Supervisor)

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