The Impact of Health Anxiety in Multiple Sclerosis: A Replication and Treatment Case Series

Neil Carrigan, Leon Dysch, Paul M. Salkovskis

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Background: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is commonly associated with psychological complications. Previous research by Hayter and colleagues (2016) found that in patients with MS, health anxiety (HA) can account for part of the variance in quality of life (QoL) independent of physical and cognitive impairment caused by the disease. MS patients with HA perceived their intact physical and cognitive performance as impaired relative to those without HA and attributed the impairment to MS. These misperceptions might be useful targets in the treatment of HA in MS using cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). Aims: Study 1 sought to replicate the main findings from Hayter et al. (2016). Study 2 examined the impact of HA-focused CBT in a case series. Method: In Study 1, twenty participants with MS were screened for HA and assigned to either a high or low HA group. They completed assessments of cognitive and physical functioning before rating their performance on these tasks, followed by measures of QoL, mood and physical disability. Four participants in the high HA group subsequently received six sessions of CBT using a consecutive AB case series in Study 2. Results: Study 1 replicated the main findings from the earlier study. In Study 2, three of the four patients who received treatment showed substantial improvements in HA and mood and all showed improvement in QoL. Conclusion: Given the high rates of HA in MS patients and its impact on QoL, this case series suggests that a brief CBT intervention could significantly improve patients’ wellbeing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-167
Number of pages20
JournalBehavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy
Issue number2
Early online date9 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • cognitive behaviour therapy
  • health anxiety
  • multiple sclerosis
  • quality of life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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