Accurate awareness of heartbeat in hypochondriacal and non-hypochondriacal patients.
We measured the accurate awareness of resting heartbeat in a sample of medical out-patients meeting DSM-III-R criteria for hypochondriasis (n = 60), and in a comparison group of non-hypochondriacal patients (n = 60) from the same general medical clinic. Patients also completed subjective self-report ratings of their sensitivity to benign bodily sensation and of functional somatic symptoms. Hypochondriacal patients did not differ significantly from non-hypochondriacal patients in their accurate awareness of heartbeat. They did, however, consider themselves more sensitive to benign bodily sensation and report more functional somatic symptoms. Within each sample, the only statistically significant association found was a negative correlation (r = -0.32, p = 0.025) between heartbeat awareness and the severity of hypochondriacal symptoms among the hypochondriacal patients. These results suggest that hypochondriacs may not be more accurately aware of normal cardiac activity, and therefore that hypochondriacal somatic complaints may not result from an unusually fine discriminative ability to detect normal physiological sensations that non-hypochondriacal individuals do not perceive.
Barsky, AJ; Brener, J; Coeytaux, RR; Cleary, PD
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