The medical context of hypochondriacal traits

P. Alex Mabe, William T. Riley, L. Ralph Jones, Douglas P. Hobson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objective: This study examines the effects of two medical contexts on the relationship of hypochondriacal traits and their potential correlates. Method: Correlates of hypochondriacal traits were compared from a matched sample of fifty-five general medical inpatients with a sample of fifty-five medical inpatients referred for psychiatric evaluation. Patients completed questionnaires assessing emotional distress and health attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, and their attending physician completed ratings of the patient's illness and illness behavior. Results: Patients referred for psychiatric consultation exhibited significantly higher levels of hypochondriacal illness presentation than the matched nonreferred sample. Moderated regression analyses revealed three trends regarding the interactive effects of group status on the relationship of hypochondriacal traits to their potential correlates: l) presence of angry feelings and interpersonal friction was positively associated with hypochondriacal concerns for the psychiatric referred patients only, 2) the tendency to deny life stresses and attribute all problems to the effects of illness was positively associated with a misinterpretation of the severity of their illness and hypochondriacal illness presentation for the psychiatric referred patients, whereas this association was negative for the nonreferred medical patients, and 3) the association of reports of emotional distress symptoms with hypochondriacal illness preparation was negative for the psychiatric referred patients and positive for the nonreferred medical patients. Conclusions: Study results suggest that hypochondriasis may not represent a uniform nosological disorder and that the context of its study can significantly influence etiologic findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-459
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996


  • abnormal illness behavior
  • emotional distress
  • hypochondriasis
  • medical inpatients

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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