Intrusive thoughts in psychopathology: a transdiagnostic perspective 9 & 10 February 2023
EPP symposium 147

Intrusive thoughts are thoughts that come to mind unbidden. They occur in every life, but also as a symptom of mental disorders. The best known example of intrusive thoughts are the recurrent and distressing memories that are a hallmark symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For example, after a traumatic car crash an individual may have intrusions of breaking glass, the sound of a scream, the smell of burning rubber, or of something harmless occurring moments earlier, such as traffic lights or a child passing by holding a balloon. However, intrusive thoughts occur across other disorders as well, albeit in slightly different forms, such as obsessions in obsessive compulsive disorder, craving in substance use disorder, worry in anxiety disorders, and rumination and urges to self-harm in mood disorders. Therefore, intrusions can be seen as a transdiagnostic marker of psychopathology.

This symposium aims to present an overview of the various manifestations of intrusive thinking across health and disorders, including the different psychological and (neuro)biological frameworks to explain their emergence. We will also discuss some of the science-driven interventions that aim to mitigate intrusive symptoms. While most people have an intuitive understanding of what intrusive thinking is, scientifically, the phenomenon remains rather elusive: during the interactive part of the symposium students will be encouraged to critically reflect on the phenomenology of intrusive thinking and on how to best assess this in the lab as well as in daily life.

February 9 – 10, 2023

Kapellerput Heeze


Renée Visser (UvA), Ann Meulders (UM & KU Leuven)

Thursday February 9


10.30 – 11.00 Welcome + Coffee/Tea
11.00 – 12.00

12.00– 13.00

Iris Engelhard (Utrecht University) – Intrusive thoughts as a transdiagnostic symptom

Fran Meeten (University of Sussex, UK) – Intrusions in obsessive compulsive disorder

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch
14.00 – 15.00 Dimitri Van Ryckeghem (Maastricht University & University of Luxembourg) – Intrusive thoughts in chronic pain and pain catastrophizing
15.00 – 15.15 Break
15.15 – 15.45 PhD Presentation

  • Marjolein Thunnissen – Negative flashforward imagery in the maintenance and treatment of social anxiety in young people
15.45 – 17.00 Interactive part
17.00 – 18.00 Drinks/walk/run
18.30 – 20.30 Dinner
Friday February 10


09.00 – 10:00 Sanne de Wit (University of Amsterdam) – Mechanism of uncontrollable thoughts and actions
10:00 – 11:00 Phd Presentations

  • Sera Lortye: Treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder in patients with substance use disorders; focus on childhood maltreatment
  • Sophie Rameckers: The Working Mechanisms of Imagery Rescripting and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing in the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
11.00 – 11:30 Break
11.30 – 12.30 Martina DiSimplicio (Imperial College London, UK) – Intrusive mental imagery in bipolar disorder and adolescents who self-harm.
12.30 – 13.30 Lunch
13.30 – 14.30 Yannick Boddez (Ghent University) – Intrusive thoughts in complex grief  
14.30 – 15.30 Wrap up from interactive/group assignment




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