Intrusive mental images can be defined as 'fragments of specific autobiographical events or imaginal extensions of such events that predominantly possess sensory qualities and enter awareness suddenly and unintentionally.' Flashbacks have long been known to be part of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but intrusive mental images have also been implicated in depression, anxiety and other mental disorders. A team of Dutch researchers looked into intrusive images in grief, studying a sample of 131 mourners. They examined the frequency and correlates of four specific types of intrusive image: positive intrusive memories of the deceased, intrusive images of the death, re-enactment fantasies, and negative images of the future. All were common and all were correlated with the severity of complicated grief symptoms. Intrusive images of death, re-enactment fantasies and negative images of the future were all correlated with the severity of symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Boelen, Paul A. and Huntjens, Rafaele J. C. - Intrusive images in grief: an exploratory study Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy July-August 2008, 15(4), 217-226