Dealing with negative thinking

Is it 'normal' to think about pushing someone in front of a train or to fantasise about driving your car into oncoming traffic? The answer is yes, says Victoria University of Wellington researcher Dr Kirsty Fraser who graduated with a PhD in Psychology last week.

"It's common for people to occasionally have those kind of , but then most of us realise it's a bit ridiculous and move on," says Dr Fraser.

For some people, however, those negative thoughts may persist, leading to .

"It's how we react to, and process, those negative intrusions that can make the difference between brushing them off and developing obsessive compulsive symptoms, such as and depression.

"For example, some people could be so anxious about those kind of thoughts that they go out of their way to avoid catching a train or driving."

Dr Fraser's thesis focused on two ways of processing negative thoughts—inflated responsibility (IR) and thought action fusion (TAF), and the way each relates to .

"TAF is when you believe that thinking about an action is equivalent to actually carrying out that action, while IR is one of the driving forces behind (OCD), where you believe you can prevent something happening by what you do or don't do.

"My research demonstrates that both types of beliefs play important roles in the development and maintenance of psychological symptoms related to anxiety, depression and OCD."

Dr Fraser's research also looked at how childhood experiences, critical events in one's life and religious beliefs could impact upon thoughts.

She surveyed more than 1,000 people and divided them into four groups: undergraduate students, so called 'normal' citizens, patients from an anxiety clinic and those with religious and atheist beliefs.

"Overall," she says, "my research provided strong support for existing theories about the role of cognitive processes in the maintenance of symptoms and distress."

When Kirsty arrived at Victoria in 2002, she began studying human resources. She took a psychology paper out of interest and "never left".

"The lecturer was John McDowall, who introduced me to how interesting the subject is. He ended up being my supervisor for my PhD."

For the past three years, Kirsty has combined doctoral study with teaching a second year psychology paper at Victoria, marking for another tertiary institution and being a full-time mother.

"Now I'm starting to think about other challenges, including possible research positions. I'd like to publish my PhD research and continue lecturing.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The surprising truth about obsessive-compulsive thinking

Apr 08, 2014

People who check whether their hands are clean or imagine their house might be on fire are not alone. New research from Concordia University and 15 other universities worldwide shows that 94 per cent of people experience ...

Abuse jeopardizes new mothers' mental health

Apr 28, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Ashley Pritchard, a Simon Fraser University doctoral student, is among four authors of a new research paper calling for closer monitoring of new mothers for mental health problems in light ...

Recommended for you

Intervention program helps prevent high-school dropouts

Oct 24, 2014

New research findings from a team of prevention scientists at Arizona State University demonstrates that a family-focused intervention program for middle-school Mexican American children leads to fewer drop-out rates and ...

Bilingualism over the lifespan

Oct 24, 2014

It's a scene that plays out every day in Montreal. On the bus, in schools, in the office and at home, conversations weave seamlessly back and forth between French and English, or one of the many other languages represented ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Moebius
5 / 5 (1) May 23, 2014
How do you deal with negative thinking when most positive, optimistic types (the main critics) can't tell the difference between negative thinking and realistic thinking.
Moebius
not rated yet May 23, 2014
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Sinister1812
not rated yet May 24, 2014
How do you deal with negative thinking when most positive, optimistic types (the main critics) can't tell the difference between negative thinking and realistic thinking.


There's a difference?