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

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 February 2012

Robert Dudley*
Affiliation:
Newcastle University and Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Foundation Trust, UK
Markku Wood
Affiliation:
Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust
Helen Spencer
Affiliation:
Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Foundation Trust, UK
Alison Brabban
Affiliation:
Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, UK
Urs P. Mosimann
Affiliation:
University of Bern, Switzerland
Daniel Collerton
Affiliation:
Newcastle University and Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Foundation Trust, UK
*
Reprint requests to Robert Dudley, Doctorate of Clinical Psychology, Ridley Building, Newcastle University, Newcastle NE1 7RU, UK. E-mail: r.e.j.dudley@ncl.ac.uk

Abstract

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.

Type
Brief Clinical Reports
Copyright
Copyright © British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies 2012

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References

Collerton, D. and Dudley, R. (2004). A cognitive behavioural framework for the treatment of distressing visual hallucinations in older people. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 32, 443445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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Mosimann, U. P., Collerton, D., Dudley, R., Meyer, T. D., Graham, G., Dean, J. L., et al. (2007). A semi-structured interview to assess visual hallucinations in older people. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 22, 17.Google Scholar
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