International Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 39–48 | Cite as

The Association of Sensory Responsiveness with Somatic Symptoms and Illness Anxiety

  • Donja Rodic
  • Andrea Hans Meyer
  • Roselind Lieb
  • Gunther Meinlschmidt



Somatoform Disorders or Somatic Symptom and Related Disorders are a major public health problem.The pathophysiology underlying these disorders is not yet understood.


The aim of this study was to explore if sensory responsiveness could contribute to a better understanding of pathophysiological mechanisms underlying two key symptoms of Somatoform Disorders, namely somatic symptoms and illness anxiety.


We measured vibrotactile perception thresholds with the HVLab Perception Meter and examined their association with somatic symptoms, illness anxiety and trait anxiety. A sample of 205 volunteers participated in the study.


Sensory responsiveness was neither associated with somatic symptoms (β = −0.01; 95 % confidence interval (CI), −0.37, 0.39) nor trait anxiety (β = −0.07; 95 % CI, −0.30, 0.07). However, lower vibrotactile perception thresholds were associated with increased scores of the overall illness anxiety scale (β = −0.65; 95 % CI, −1.21, −0.14) and its constituent subscale disease conviction (β = −2.07; 95 % CI, −3.94, −0.43).


Our results suggest that increased sensory responsiveness is associated with illness anxiety and hence should be examined further as potential target within the etiopathology of somatoform disorders.


Illness anxiety Medically unexplained somatic symptoms Sensory responsiveness Vibrotactile perception threshold 



Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5


Vibrotactile perception threshold


Ethics Committee Basel


Screening for Somatoform Symptoms




State-Trait Anxiety Inventory


Socio-Economic Status







We thank all people involved in data collection and entry.

Conflict of Interest

The authors, DR, AHM, RL and GM declare that they have no conflict of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of the paper. This work was supported by Forschungsfonds of the University of Basel (to GM) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF number 100014_135328; to GM and RL). Additionally, GM receives funding from the Korea Research Foundation within the Global Research Network Program under project no. 2013S1A2A2035364 and from the Swiss National Science Foundation under project no. 100014_135328. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Ethical Standards

“All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all participants for being included in the study.”

Authors’ Contributions

DR carried out participant testing and drafted the manuscript. AHM performed statistical analysis. GM designed the study and obtained funding. GM and RL supervised the study and revised the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


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Copyright information

© International Society of Behavioral Medicine 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donja Rodic
    • 1
  • Andrea Hans Meyer
    • 1
  • Roselind Lieb
    • 1
  • Gunther Meinlschmidt
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Division of Clinical Psychology and EpidemiologyUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland
  2. 2.Faculty of MedicineRuhr-University BochumBochumGermany
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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