Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

2013 Edition
| Editors: Marc D. Gellman, J. Rick Turner

Illness Cognitions and Perceptions

  • Holly Rau
  • Paula Williams
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9_967



The terms illness perceptions and illness cognitions are used to describe a range of cognitive processes underlying attention, interpretation, and behavior in response to illness-related information. Although often studied in the context of various disease populations (e.g., diabetes, cancer), illness cognitions and perceptions are also relevant in the absence of a diagnosed health condition and have important implications for subsequent illness behavior (e.g., self-care, healthcare utilization, treatment adherence).


Self-assessment of health, which includes symptom perception, interpretation, and reporting, is central to illness-related self-regulatory behavior (i.e., self-care decision making, communication with healthcare providers, commitment to treatment regimens, etc.). Underestimation or overestimation of illness status can lead to inappropriate illness behavior, such as overuse or avoidance of healthcare...

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References and Readings

  1. Cameron, L. D., & Leventhal, H. (Eds.). (2003). The self-regulation of health and illness behaviour. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Leventhal, H., Breland, J. Y., Mora, P. A., & Leventhal, E. A. (2010). Lay representations of illness and treatment: A framework for action. In A. Steptoe (Ed.), Handbook of behavioral medicine: methods and applications (pp. 137–154). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Petersen, S., van den Berg, R. A., Janssens, T., & Van den Bergh, O. (2011). Illness and symptom perception: A theoretical approach towards an integrative measurement model. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(3), 428–439.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Williams, P. G. (2004). The psychopathology of self-assessed health: A cognitive approach to health anxiety and hypochondriasis. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 28(5), 629–644.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA