Background: The cognitive model and empirical research underline the importance of dysfunctional beliefs about bodily symptoms and illness in health anxiety and hypochondriasis. However, specificity of such beliefs has not yet been adequately demonstrated for patients with hypochondriasis.
Objective: This study examined whether dysfunctional beliefs about bodily symptoms and illness are elevated in comparison to patients with anxiety disorders and, therefore, specific for patients with hypochondriasis.
Method: Patients with hypochondriasis (n = 38), patients with anxiety disorders (n = 40), and healthy controls (n = 42) completed the Symptom and Outcomes Scale (SOS) measuring participants' estimation of the likelihood of various symptoms being indicative of a particular illness. Additionally, participants' general psychopathology (Brief Symptom Inventory), depressive (Beck Depression Inventory-II), and anxiety symptoms (Beck Anxiety Inventory) were evaluated.
Results: In comparison to patients with anxiety disorders and healthy controls, patients with hypochondriasis estimated bodily symptoms to be more likely an indicator for a catastrophic illness. Patients with anxiety disorders took a middle position between patients with hypochondriasis and healthy controls. Regarding the estimation of the likelihood of symptoms indicating a minor illness, no differences were found between the three groups.
Conclusions: Dysfunctional beliefs about symptoms and illness are important and specific for patients with hypochondriasis, which is in line with the cognitive model. In order to reduce misinformation about serious illnesses in patients with hypochondriasis, more attention should be paid to psychoeducational strategies.
Copyright Â© 2012 The Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.