Cognition in Health Anxiety and Hypochondriasis: Recent Advances

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Abstract

The present paper reviewed studies that examined the role of cognitive and perceptual variables in health anxiety and hypochondriasis that have been published since a 2007 meta-analysis of this literature. Specifically the current review examined the associations between hypochondriasis or health anxiety and (1) dysfunctional beliefs, (2) cognitive processes, (3) triggering stimuli, and (4) the perception of bodily sensations. Overall, the findings from the recent research were consistent with those that were included in the earlier meta-analysis, and were generally supportive of cognitive-behavioral approaches to understanding hypochondriasis and health anxiety. In recent years, there has been a shift in emphasis away from empirical studies of dysfunctional beliefs and toward greater attention to cognitive processes in health anxiety. So far, these cognitive process studies have not been especially systematic and have examined a variety of variables, including attentional biases toward potential threats, rumination, and intolerance of uncertainty. Such findings may help inform more comprehensive cognitive models of hypochondriasis and health anxiety. Conversely, attempts to integrate cognitive process variables into cognitive-behavioral models of health anxiety may help generate more systematic research.

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