A sensitive body or a sensitive mind? Associations among somatic sensitization, cognitive sensitization, health worry, and subjective health complaints.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES Psychobiological sensitization and health worry appear to be involved in the etiology of clinical manifestations of subjective health complaints (SHCs) via amplified processing of health-related information. However, it is not clear whether sensitization and health worry are also associated with common SHCs, which are extremely prevalent and are responsible for a large part of both human suffering and health care costs. In this study, we investigated whether SHCs are associated with health worry and two types of sensitization: cognitive health-related sensitization and somatic sensitization. We also examined whether health worry mediates the relationship between cognitive sensitization and SHCs and whether both levels of sensitization interact. METHODS A nonclinical sample of 47 female students completed questionnaires about their recent subjective health as well as health worry and underwent tests for cognitive sensitization, operationalized as Stroop interference and free recall performance, and somatic sensitization, operationalized as pain tolerance and pain threshold in a cold pressor task. RESULTS Severity of health complaints was positively related with recall of health-related stimuli, but not with Stroop interference, and with worrying about health complaints. In addition, worry mediated the relationship between recall bias and severity of health complaints. Both the number and severity of recent health complaints were associated with pain tolerance. Pain threshold was associated with Stroop interference for health-related information. CONCLUSIONS The results suggest that specific types of cognitive sensitization and somatic sensitization are associated with common health complaints and that worrying about one's complaints might play a role by enhancing biased memory of health-related information.

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Cite this paper

@article{Verkuil2007ASB, title={A sensitive body or a sensitive mind? Associations among somatic sensitization, cognitive sensitization, health worry, and subjective health complaints.}, author={Bart Verkuil and Jos F Brosschot and Julian F. Thayer}, journal={Journal of psychosomatic research}, year={2007}, volume={63 6}, pages={673-81} }