Attentional control of pain perception: The role of hypochondriasis

Stefan Lautenbacher, Paul Pauli, Michael Zaudig, Nils Birbaumer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The role of hypochondriasis in the attentional control of pain perception was investigated in 28 in-patients (12 women and 16 men) at a hospital for psychosomatic disorders, who had been classified into high- and low-hypochondriacal categories by means of the Illness Attitude Scales (IAS). The two groups did not differ in their basic pain sensitivity based on their heat pain thresholds. Attentional control was manipulated bp a mental arithmetic task, resulting in one experimental condition with distraction and one without distraction. In both of the conditions, subjects rated the intensity and the unpleasantness of nonpainful and painful heat stimuli on visual analog scales (VAS). Distraction significantly reduced the perceived intensity and unpleasantness of the stimuli at painful levels but not at nonpainful levels. Contrary to our expectation, the individual level of hypochondriasis did not influence this result. Although distraction seemed to have a strong influence on pain perception, hypochondriasis as a symptom or a trait did not contribute to this effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-259
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1998


  • Attention
  • Hypochondriasis
  • Illness Attitude Scales
  • Pain perception
  • Psychosomatic disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Psychology(all)


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