The Effects of Attention Training on Health Anxiety: An Experimental Investigation
BACKGROUND Empirical evidence indicates that manipulations of attention may facilitate changes in cognition and stress symptoms in emotional disorder. METHODS The present study reports the effects of Attention Training (ATT) in a brief case series of three patients with primary hypochondriasis using an A-B-A design. RESULTS ATT produced clinically significant improvements in self-reported measures of affect, and illness-related behaviour and cognition. Treatment gains were maintained at 6 months follow-up assessments. Measures of body-focused attention indicated that the ATT procedure acted on attentional processes as intended. CONCLUSIONS The present case series extends the effects of ATT to problems of hypochondriasis. A number of studies now suggest that ATT is associated with a reduction in anxiety and negative beliefs across disorders of panic, social phobia and hypochondriasis. Controlled clinical trials are now required to establish firmly the effects of ATT as a component of cognitive therapy.