Examining Beliefs Related to Health Anxiety

  • Tiffany Unrau MacEwan University

Abstract

While everyone worries about their health from time to time, excessive worrying is maladaptive. Severe health anxiety (HA) is characterized by disproportionate health worries. Furthermore, a person with severe HA may become convinced that they have, or are at risk of developing, a serious illness. The present study examines how different beliefs, such as intolerance of uncertainty (IU), metacognitive beliefs, and cognitive avoidance contribute to HA. Past research has found that IU and metacognitive beliefs contribute significantly to HA, but these factors have not been examined together. Moreover, cognitive avoidance is characteristic of other anxiety disorders, but there is limited research on how it contributes to HA. Specifically, IU refers to the negative reactions and beliefs that an individual may have toward ambiguity. Some individuals cannot tolerate uncertainty, and may cope by seeking excessive reassurance from others or engaging in checking behaviour. Metacognitive beliefs refer to an individual’s beliefs about his or her own thoughts. For example, a specific metacognitive belief is believing that thoughts are uncontrollable. Cognitive avoidance refers to thought strategies that are aimed at avoiding thoughts about undesirable events or problems. Self-report measures will be administered to non-clinical university students (N = 600) to investigate the relationship between HA, IU, metacognitive beliefs, and cognitive avoidance. Additional factors that have been previously found to contribute to HA will also be controlled for. It is hypothesized that IU, metacognitive beliefs, and cognitive avoidance, will have a significant relationship with HA. Expected findings have implications for HA understanding and treatment.


Presented in absentia on April 27, 2020 at Student Research Day held at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta.


Faculty Mentor: Alexander Penney


Department: Psychology

Published
2020-04-27