Hypochondriasis, Somatoform Disorders, and Anxiety Disorders

Department of Psychology, University of Mainz, Mainz, Germany.
The Journal of nervous and mental disease (Impact Factor: 1.69). 05/2012; 200(5):406-12. DOI: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31825322e5
Source: PubMed


The question of whether hypochondriasis (HYP) should be considered a somatoform disorder (SFD) or classified as an anxiety disorder (ANX) has recently been raised. To empirically provide information on this issue, we compared patients with HYP (n = 65) with those with other SFDs (n = 94) and those with ANX (n = 224) regarding sociodemographic and biographical variables, general psychopathology, and naturalistic cognitive-behavioral therapy treatment effects. Compared with SFD, patients with HYP were younger and had fewer comorbid affective disorders and less impaired life domains, suggesting a closer connection between HYP and ANX. Regarding cognitive-behavioral therapy treatment effects, all diagnostic groups showed comparable significant improvement (d = 0.44-0.64). According to level of anxiety, the SFD sample had significantly lower pretreatment scores than did the ANX and the HYP samples. The results suggest that patients with HYP have an interim position between SFD and ANX, with slightly closer connections to ANX.

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    • "Recently, the classification of hypochondriasis as an anxiety disorder was suggested because of conceptual [9] and phenomenological [10] similarities between anxiety disorders and hypochondriasis. Moreover, empirical research has demonstrated that hypochondriasis seems to be more closely connected to anxiety than to somatoform disorders [11]. Therefore, anxiety disorders should be considered as the relevant comparison group for identifying patients with hypochondriasis using a screening measure. "
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    ABSTRACT: Hypochondriasis is a persistent psychiatric disorder and is associated with increased utilisation of health care services. However, effective psychiatric consultation interventions and CBT treatments are available. In the present study, we provide evidence of clinically effective screening for hypochondriasis. We describe the clinically effective identification of patients with a high probability of suffering from hypochondriasis. This identification is achieved by means of two brief standardised screening instruments, namely the Bodily Preoccupation (BP) Scale with 3 items and the Whiteley-7 (WI-7) with 7 items. Both the BP scale and the WI-7 were examined in a sample of 228 participants (72 with hypochondriasis, 80 with anxiety disorders and 76 healthy controls) in a large psychotherapy outpatients' unit, applying the DSM-IV criteria. Cut-off values for the BP scale and the WI-7 were computed to identify patients with a high probability of suffering from hypochondriasis. Additionally, other self-report symptom severity scales were completed in order to examine discriminant and convergent validity. Data was collected from June 2010 to March 2013. The BP scale and the WI-7 discriminated significantly between patients with hypochondriasis and those with an anxiety disorder (d=2.42 and d=2.34). Cut-off values for these two screening scales could be provided, thus identifying patients with a high probability of suffering from hypochondriasis. In order to reduce costs, the BP scale or the WI-7 should be applied in medical or primary care settings, to screen for patients with a high probability of hypochondriasis and to transfer them to further assessment and effective treatment.
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    ABSTRACT: Backround Previous experiences with illness and traumatic experiences are considered as important risk factors for the development of health anxiety and hypochondriasis. However, empirical research is insufficient and lacks adequate comparison groups. Therefore, it is unclear whether experiences with illness and traumatic experiences are really specific risk factors for hypochondriasis. Method In the current study, patients with the diagnosis of hypochondriasis (n = 80), patients with a primary anxiety disorder (n = 80), and healthy controls (n = 83) were investigated regarding their previous experiences with illness (self and other) and traumatic childhood experiences. Results We found that patients with hypochondriasis reported a higher level of experience with illness and with traumatic childhood experiences than healthy controls. However, no differences were found between patients with hypochondriasis and those with an anxiety disorder, regarding their level of experience with illness and traumatic experiences. Conclusions Previous experiences with illness and traumatic childhood experiences did not prove to be specific risk factors for the development of hypochondriasis. The importance of both experiences with illness and traumatic experiences as risk factors, as considered in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and in established cognitive-behavioral models, does not seem to be supported empirically. Further research should therefore also consider other potential risk factors discussed in the literature.
    Psychosomatics 01/2013; 55(4). DOI:10.1016/j.psym.2013.10.005 · 1.86 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The cognitive-behavioral and interpersonal models of health anxiety propose that parental illness could be a contributory factor to the development of health anxiety but through different mechanisms. The cognitive-behavioral model suggests that exposure to parental illness may lead to health beliefs that could increase health anxiety. In contrast, the interpersonal model proposes that parental illness may contribute to the development of an insecure attachment pattern and consequently health anxiety. To assess the additive value of the models, 116 emerging adults (i.e. aged 18-25) who had a parent diagnosed with a serious medical illness (e.g. cancer, multiple sclerosis) completed measures of health anxiety, adult attachment dimensions, and health beliefs. Attachment anxiety, attachment avoidance, health beliefs, and death of the ill parent were statistically significant predictors of health anxiety. The results provide support for both models of health anxiety. Theoretical implications and directions for future research are discussed.
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