About the Research Consortium on Intrusive Fear

As a basic human emotion fear can act as a driving force that overwhelms an individual’s life and even directs the course of entire nations. Our most innate fears arise when our physical survival is under attack, but fear also occurs in response to perceived threat and danger to emotional well-being. Fears come in many forms and can be related to external circumstances or to a person’s internal psychological state. The latter is a more personal fear that emerges in the form of threatening intrusive thoughts, images and memories that challenge personal goals and values. People with intrusive fear may be afraid of losing control over aggressive or sexual urges, doubt the adequacy of their actions or decisions, question their religious or moral integrity, or worry about their personal hygiene and cleanliness. These intrusive fears can become so extreme and disconnected from reality that the person develops a fear-based disorder like obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

The Research Consortium on Intrusive Fear (RCIF) is an international group of 17 psychologists and psychiatrists drawn from 12 countries who are conducting a program of research on the nature of intrusive fearful thoughts and images. Formed five years ago, the RCIF has developed new research tools to understand the origins, persistence and management of intrusive fear. Preliminary studies are underway and the RCIF will convene a research development meeting in 2011 to initiate the first large-scale multinational study on the origins and management of intrusive fear. There are a number of key questions directing the RCIF’s research agenda. Do people from different countries have the same personal fears? What is the most effective way to get rid of intrusive fear? What causes some people to develop an anxiety disorder from their intrusive fearful thoughts? What is the most effective way to treat more extreme and persistent intrusive fear? What do individuals learn from their society about how to deal with intrusive fearful thoughts? Are some religious and cultural teachings more helpful than others? What can we learn from different cultures about the management of fearful intrusive thoughts?