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Identifying Specific Interpretations and Use of Safety Behaviours in People with Distressing Visual Hallucinations: An Exploratory Study

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Rob DudleyORCiD, Markku Wood, Helen Spencer, Alison Brabban, Dr Urs Mosimann, Daniel Collerton


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Background: Visual hallucinations (VH) are a common experience and can be distressing and disabling, particularly for people suffering from psychotic illness. However, not everyone with visual hallucinations reports the experience to be distressing. Models of VH propose that appraisals of VH as a threat to wellbeing and the use of safety seeking behaviours help maintain the distress. Aims: This study investigated whether people with distressing VH report threat appraisals and use safety behaviours. Method: The study utilized a single group descriptive design, in which 15 participants with psychosis and VH were asked questions in order to assess the content, distress, appraisals, and behaviours associated with visual hallucinations. Results: People who found visual hallucinations distressing (n = 13) held negative appraisals about those hallucinations and specifically saw them as a threat to their physical or psychological wellbeing. They also engaged in safety seeking behaviours that were logically related to the appraisal and served to maintain the distress. Conclusions: People with distressing VH regard them as a threat to their wellbeing and use safety seeking behaviours as a result of this perceived threat. These key processes are potential targets for treatments that will alleviate the distress associated with VH.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Dudley R, Wood M, Spencer H, Brabban A, Mosimann UP, Collerton D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy

Year: 2012

Volume: 40

Issue: 3

Pages: 367-375

Print publication date: 10/02/2012

ISSN (print): 1352-4658

ISSN (electronic): 1469-1833

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/S1352465811000750


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