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Mental imagery has been implicated in anxiety disorders in adults, but has not been investigated in child and adolescent populations. Anxiety is highly prevalent in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and as people with ASD are often thought of as 'visual thinkers', the potential role of distressing imagery in children with ASD merits exploration. Participants aged 8-16 years were grouped as follows: ASD/high anxiety, ASD/low anxiety, non-ASD/high anxiety and non-ASD/low anxiety. Imagery and associated features were assessed using an interview. Group differences were found in number and frequency of images experienced. There were few differences between the groups in the characteristics of the spontaneous images, which included emotional valence, vividness, controllability and realism. Implications for treatment are discussed.

Original publication




Journal article


J Autism Dev Disord

Publication Date





3822 - 3832


Anxiety, Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Mental imagery, Adolescent, Anxiety, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Case-Control Studies, Child, Female, Humans, Imagination, Male