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.

Go to the profile of Heather Mason
Nov 16, 2016
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https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27819476

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! :)

Go to the profile of Heather Mason

Heather Mason

Founder of the Minded Institute, The Minded Institute

Heather Mason is a leader in the field of mind-body therapy and the founder of Yoga Therapy for the Mind. She develops innovative methods for mental health treatment drawing on her robust educational background including an MA in Psychotherapy, an MA in Buddhist Studies, studies in Neuroscience and a current MSc in Medical Physiology.. She is also a 500 RYT, a yoga therapist and an MBCT facilitator. Heather offers various professional trainings for yoga teachers, healthcare professionals and therapists, lectures around the world, and delivers training to medical students. She also develops protocols for different client populations by translating cutting edge research from the psycho-biology and neuro-biology of stress into yoga practices, breathwork, mindfulness interventions and therapeutic holding. Further she is involved in research on the efficacy of these practices, holds the annual UK yoga therapy conference and is blazing the trail for the integration of yoga therapy into the NHS

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