Predictors and consequences of health anxiety symptoms: a novel twin modeling study

C. López-Solà, M. Bui, J. L. Hopper, L. F. Fontenelle, C. G. Davey, C. Pantelis, P. Alonso, O. A. van den Heuvel, B. J. Harrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Objective: The question of how to best conceptualize health anxiety (HA) from a diagnostic and etiological perspective remains debated. The aim was to examine the relationship between HA and the symptoms of anxiety and obsessive–compulsive-related disorders in a normative twin population. Method: Four hundred and ninety-six monozygotic adult twin pairs from the Australian Twin Registry participated in the study (age, 34.4 ± 7.72 years; 59% females). Validated scales were used to assess each domain. We applied a twin regression methodology—ICE FALCON—to determine whether there was evidence consistent with ‘causal’ relationships between HA and other symptoms by fitting and comparing model estimates. Results: Estimates were consistent with higher levels of obsessing (‘unwanted thoughts’) (P = 0.008), social anxiety (P = 0.03), and body dysmorphic symptoms (P = 0.008) causing higher levels of HA symptoms, and with higher levels of HA symptoms causing higher levels of physical/somatic anxiety symptoms (P = 0.001). Conclusion: Obsessional thoughts, body dysmorphic concerns, and social anxiety symptoms may have a causal influence on HA. To report physical/somatic anxiety appears to be a consequence of the underlying presence of HA-related fears. Should our results be confirmed by longitudinal studies, the evaluation and treatment of HA may benefit from the consideration of these identified risk factors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-251
JournalActa Psychiatrica Scandinavica
Volume137
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Cite this

López-Solà, C., Bui, M., Hopper, J. L., Fontenelle, L. F., Davey, C. G., Pantelis, C., ... Harrison, B. J. (2018). Predictors and consequences of health anxiety symptoms: a novel twin modeling study. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 137(3), 241-251. https://doi.org/10.1111/acps.12850