Physical symptom reporting is associated with a tendency to experience somatosensory distortion

Brown, Richard J., Skehan, Daniel, Chapman, Anna , Perry, Ewan P., McKenzie, Kirsten J., Lloyd, Donna M., Babbs, Christopher, Paine, Peter and Poliakoff, Ellen (2012) Physical symptom reporting is associated with a tendency to experience somatosensory distortion. Psychosomatic medicine, 74 (6). pp. 648-655. ISSN 0033-3174

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Item Type:Article
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Theory suggests that a tendency to experience distortions in somatosensory awareness is associated with physical symptom reporting (i.e., somatization) but empirical evidence for this is lacking. This article describes research designed to test this hypothesis.

Somatosensory distortion was operationalized as the frequency of illusory touch experiences (i.e., false alarm rate) on the Somatic Signal Detection Task. Two studies correlated false alarms on this task with physical symptom reporting on the 15-item Patient Health Questionnaire, the first using a nonclinical sample (n = 35), the second using a clinical sample of endoscopy patients who were identified as having either medically explained (n = 25) or medically unexplained symptoms (n = 30).

Scores on the 15-item Patient Health Questionnaire were positively correlated with false alarm rate in both studies (r = 0.288-0.506), even after controlling for trait anxiety, depression, anxiety (standardized β range = 0.793-0.932, all p < .0001) and (in Study 2) somatosensory amplification and hypochondriacal worry (standardized β range = 0.345-0.375, both p < .05). There was no difference in false alarm rate between patients with medically explained and medically unexplained symptoms (medically explained median range = 6.8 [3.7] to 6.8 [4.0] versus medically unexplained median range = 4.3 [3.9] to 5.6 [3.1], both p > .1).

There seems to be a robust link between physical symptom reporting and the tendency to experience somatosensory distortion, consistent with recent cognitive theories. It may be possible to reduce the impact of somatization by developing treatments that target this tendency.

Keywords:somatization, somatosensory amplification, illusory touch, medically unexplained symptoms, trait anxiety, somatic signal detection task
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C800 Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C850 Cognitive Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C840 Clinical Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
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ID Code:17303
Deposited On:29 Apr 2015 15:27

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