Health Anxiety, Cognitive Coping, and Emotion Regulation: A Latent Variable Approach
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Health anxiety, the fear or conviction of suffering from a severe disorder, represents a dimensional and multifactorial construct consisting of cognitive, behavioral, affective, and perceptual components. It has recently been proposed that dysfunctional emotion regulation strategies contribute to health anxiety, but the empirical evidence for this claim is sparse.
The current research was aimed at broadly exploring and clarifying possible relationships between dimensions of health anxiety and cognitive coping and emotion regulation strategies.
In two studies with non-clinical samples (n study 1 = 172; n study 2 = 242), health anxiety, cognitive coping, and emotion regulation strategies were assessed using multidimensional self-report measures. Functional (e.g., reappraisal) and dysfunctional (e.g., rumination) cognitive coping and emotion regulation strategies were differentiated.
Using structural equation modeling, the results of Study 1 revealed significant and consistent associations between the dimensions of health anxiety and dysfunctional coping and emotion regulation strategies. Study 2 replicated and extended the main findings of Study 1 by demonstrating that the associations between health anxiety and strategies of coping and emotion regulation were independent of the current level of depressive symptoms.
Health anxiety was found to be associated with dysfunctional coping and emotion regulation strategies (e.g., suppression). The positive associations between behavioral dimensions of health anxiety (e.g., seeking reassurance) and dysfunctional coping strategies may suggest that behavioral dimensions of health anxiety serve as a compensatory strategy to overcome difficulties in cognitive coping.
KeywordsCatastrophizing Coping Emotion regulation Health anxiety Hypochondriasis Rumination
We thank Thomas Selck for his support in the data collection process of Study 2.
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