A comparison of the content, themes, and features of intrusive memories and rumination in major depressive disorder


Jill M. Newby, School of Psychology, The University of New South Wales, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia (e-mail: jnewby@psy.unsw.edu.au).


Objectives. We compared the content/themes and features of intrusive memories versus rumination about such intrusions in a depressed sample.

Method. Participants with major depressive disorder (MDD) (N= 38) completed self-report measures about a negative intrusive memory, and rumination in response to their memory.

Results. Both rumination and intrusive memories were highly sensory, and associated with similar negative emotions (commonly helplessness and sadness). Preliminary findings suggested that intrusive memories were experienced more frequently during the day, and rumination lasted longer. Participants ruminated about a wide range of themes including the causes of the event in the memory, and the negative impact of the memory (and the recalled event) on their relationships, identity, and the future.

Conclusions. The shared features and bidirectional relationship between rumination and intrusive memories suggest that both potentially contribute to prolonged repetitive thinking in depression, and need to be addressed in treatment.