Interoceptive Awareness and Health Anxiety
This new study investigated possible abnormalities in interoception in 51 people with clinical health anxiety and 56 people without a diagnosis of health anxiety.
We are so excited to come across this paper today!! Health anxiety is a growing issue in our information saturated age - it is now easier than ever to 'diagnose' ourselves over the internet and/or find endless reams of information suggesting that our symptoms may be indicative of serious illness. Tangentially, levels of anxiety in general appear to be on the increase massively in the Western world.
Interoceptive awareness is a significant piece of this puzzle as, according to cognitive-behavioural models, clinical health anxiety is triggered and maintained by the perception of mostly mild and benign bodily sensations that are misinterpreted as signs of illness. It is conceivable that abnormalities in interoception, therefore, may account for this misguided preoccupation with somatic sensations.
This new study investigated possible abnormalities in interoception in 51 people with clinical health anxiety and 56 people without a diagnosis of health anxiety. Different types of interoception were assessed with a heartbeat-tracking task and a signal-detection task for nonspecific skin conductance fluctuations. Fascinatingly, people with health anxiety showed a more liberal interoceptive response bias for nonspecific skin conductance fluctuations; specifically, people diagnosed with a co-morbid anxiety disorder exhibited a significantly higher interoceptive sensitivity for nonspecific skin conductance fluctuations. These findings suggest that higher interoceptive sensitivity might not be specific to health anxiety, but rather associated with factors shared with the anxiety disorders.
Yoga has been found in multiple studies to promote interoceptive awareness of course - just thought we would mention that! :)