Sensed presence as a correlate of sleep paralysis distress, social anxiety and waking state social imagery

Consciousness and Cognition 17 (1):49-63 (2008)
Abstract
Isolated sleep paralysis is a common parasomnia characterized by an inability to move or speak and often accompanied by hallucinations of a sensed presence nearby. Recent research has linked ISP, and sensed presence more particularly, with social anxiety and other psychopathologies. The present study used a large sample of respondents to an internet questionnaire to test whether these associations are due to a general personality factor, affect distress, which is implicated in nightmare suffering and hypothesized to involve dysfunctional social imagery processes. A new measure, ISP distress, was examined in relation to features of ISP experiences, to self-reported psychopathological diagnosis, to scores on the Leibowitz Social Anxiety Scale and to scores on a new questionnaire subscale assessing social imagery in a variety of waking states. Three main results were found: ISP experiences are only weakly associated with a prior diagnosis of mental disorder, sensed presence during ISP is associated preferentially with ISP distress, and ISP distress is associated with dysfunctional social imagery. A general predisposition to affective distress may influence the distress associated with ISP experiences; overly passive social imagery may, in turn, be implicated in this affect distress influence
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