Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

2013 Edition
| Editors: Marc D. Gellman, J. Rick Turner

Intrusive Thoughts, Intrusiveness

  • Bart Verkuil
  • J. F. BrosschotEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9_808


An intrusive thought has been defined as “any distinct, identifiable cognitive event that is unwanted, unintended and recurrent. It interrupts the flow of thought, interferes in task performance, is associated with negative affect, and is difficult to control” (Clark, 2005, p. 4). Intrusive thoughts are particularly present in psychopathological states such as obsessive compulsive disorders (then often referred to as “obsessions”) and post-traumatic stress disorder (thoughts or images related to the experienced trauma). Yet, they are also frequently observed in the nonclinical population, where 80–99% has reported experiencing unwanted intrusive thoughts once in a while (Clark & Purdon, 1995). They appear highly similar to worrisome thoughts, but it has been suggested that intrusive thoughts are shorter in duration and are appraised as more ego-dystonic than worries (Clark, 2005).

Intrusive thoughts can be considered a form of so-called perseverative cognition (see  Persever...

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References and Readings

  1. Brosschot, J. F., Gerin, W., & Thayer, J. F. (2006). The perseverative cognition hypothesis: A review of worry, prolonged stress-related physiological activation, and health. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 60, 113–124.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Clark, D. A. (2005). Intrusive thoughts in clinical disorders: Theory, research, and treatment. New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  3. Clark, D. A., & Purdon, C. L. (1995). The assessment of unwanted intrusive thoughts: A review and critique of the literature. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 33, 967–976.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Clinical, Health and Neuro PsychologyLeiden UniversityLeidenNetherlands