Mental imagery is known to play a key role in the development and maintenance of depression and anxiety. Prisoners commonly experience psychological distress, but interventions to address this are currently lacking. We aimed to examine the link between prospective mental imagery and anxiety and depression among prisoners. One hundred twenty-three male prisoners from a Category C prison in southwest England participated in the study. They completed the Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) and the General Anxiety Disorder Scale (GAD-7) to measure whether they experience depression and/or anxiety symptoms. Furthermore, they completed additional questionnaires to evaluate their prospective mental imagery. Results showed that 67.5% of prisoners presented with more depression symptoms and 27.7% with more anxiety symptoms. Supporting earlier findings, our data revealed that some dimensions of prospective mental imagery were significantly related with increased anxiety and depression symptoms in prisoners. Namely, intrusive negative personally relevant imagery was a positive predictor and likelihood of positive events a negative predictor of both anxiety and depression symptoms. The perceived likelihood of negative events was a positive predictor of depression. Intrusive verbal thought was a positive predictor of anxiety. The obtained results suggest the need to develop interventions not only targeting the reduction of prospective negative imagery but also the enhancement of positive mental imagery.

Belén López-Pérez, Catherine Deeprose, Yaniv Hanoch
PLOS One, March 15, 2018