Panic attacks, hypochondriacal concerns, and selective processing of threat cues
Keyhan, Nicola Trisha
Master of Arts
DisciplinePsychology : Clinical
MetadataShow full item record
Cognitive theories of panic disorder and hypochondriasis were investigated using a modification of the Stroop Colour-naming Task. Sixty-two participants were divided into four groups (hypochondriacal panickers, non-hypochondriacal panickers, hypochondriacal non-panickers, and controls) on the basis of their responses to the Illness Behavior Questionnaire and the Panic Attack Questionnaire. Colour-naming times for neutral words and five categories of threat words (imminent physical, imminent mental, non-imminent, autonomic arousal, and non-autonomic arousal) were recorded in order to explore the hypotheses that the perceived imminence of the catastrophe and the types of symptoms that are feared are the key features that discriminate between panic disorder and hypochondriasis. Contrary to predictions, panickers and hypochondriacs did not exhibit selective processing for any category of stimulus items. That is, in comparison to neutral words, panickers did not take longer to colour-name the imminent physical catastrophe, imminent mental catastrophe, and autonomic arousal words, that were most relevant to the experience of panic attacks. Furthermore, subjects with hypochondriacal concerns did not exhibit greater Stroop interference for the nonimminent catastrophe or non-autonomic arousal words that were most closely associated with hypochondriacal ideation. The findings did indicate, however, that panickers and individuals with greater degrees of psychopathology, exhibited slower responding in general. Methodological differences between the present study and previous research with panickers may account for inconsistencies in the findings. Implications of these findings for cognitive theories of panic disorder and hypochondriasis are discussed and suggestions for future research are made.