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Which dysfunctional beliefs uniquely contribute to health anxiety?

Faculty Advisor




health anxiety (HA), metacognitive beliefs

Abstract (summary)

Individuals with severe health anxiety (HA) disproportionately believe that they have, or may acquire, a serious illness. Previous research has established that negative affect, anxiety sensitivity, and somatosensory amplification contribute to HA. Other variables, such as intolerance of uncertainty (IU) and metacognitive beliefs, have been recently investigated. However, many of these factors have not been assessed together. Through online self-report questionnaires, the present study examined the relationship between HA and anxiety sensitivity, somatosensory amplification, IU, metacognitions about health, catastrophic beliefs, and cognitive avoidance in a nonclinical university sample (N = 564). Using hierarchical regression analyses, anxiety sensitivity, p < .001, somatosensory amplification, p = .003, and two metacognitions, ps < .001, were found to uniquely predict HA when controlling for positive and negative affect, and generalized anxiety disorder symptoms. The metacognitions were the belief that thoughts can cause illness and the belief that thoughts about illness are uncontrollable. IU, catastrophic beliefs, cognitive avoidance, and metacognitive beliefs about biased thinking were not unique predictors of HA. These results indicate that researchers and clinicians may wish to further explore the role of metacognitive beliefs in the development and maintenance of HA.

Publication Information



Presented June 18, 2021 at the Canadian Psychological Association Annual National Convention held virtually.

Item Type

Student Presentation




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