The impact of health anxiety in patients with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis: misperception, misattribution and quality of life

Aimee L. Hayter, Paul M. Salkovskis, Eli Silber, Robin G. Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a progressive disease with an unpredictable prognosis.Previous studies have reported health anxiety within the MS population. This study examines the effect of health anxiety on MS patients’ quality of life (QoL) and evaluates the potential contribution of cognitive factors in maintaining health anxiety. Methods: A total of 84 patients with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS) were screened for health anxiety. From this sample, a group with relatively high and another group with low anxiety (n= 21 in each group) were identified. A further 21 healthy controls were recruited for comparison. A measure of QoL was then completed. Cognitive biases were investigated by measuring perception and attribution of common bodily symptoms as well as appraisal of performance on neuropsychological and physical fatigue tests. Results: The high health anxiety group reported poorer QoL relative to the other groups,independent of level of disability. They were also more likely to misattribute commonbodily changes to MS, and perceive their (objectively intact) performance on tests of cognition and fatigue as being impaired, attributing the cause of impairment to MS. Conclusion: Health anxiety may be a factor in mediating the psychosocial impact of MS. Skilled psychological treatment which changes misperception and misattribution may significantly benefit patients with MS and elevated health anxiety.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-386
Number of pages16
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date25 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016



  • Multiple Sclerosis, health anxiety, quality of life, illness perceptions, cognitive biases,

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