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Emotional mental imagery occurs across anxiety disorders, yet is neglected in bipolar disorder despite high anxiety comorbidity. Furthermore, a heightened susceptibility to developing intrusive mental images of stressful events in bipolar disorder and people vulnerable to it (with hypomanic experience) has been suggested. The current study assessed, prospectively, whether significant hypomanic experience (contrasting groups scoring high vs. low on the Mood Disorder Questionnaire, MDQ) places individuals at increased risk of visual reexperiencing after experimental stress. A total of 110 young adults watched a trauma film and recorded film-related intrusive images for 6 days. Compared to the low MDQ group, the high MDQ group experienced approximately twice as many intrusive images, substantiated by convergent measures. Findings suggest hypomanic experience is associated with developing more frequent intrusive imagery of a stressor. Because mental imagery powerfully affects emotion, such imagery may contribute to bipolar mood instability and offer a cognitive treatment target.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin Psychol Sci

Publication Date





675 - 684


bipolar disorder, intrusive imagery, involuntary memory, mental imagery, trauma film