Research Article| Volume 21, ISSUE 3, P301-310, March 1986

Somatic symptoms of anxiety: Comparison of self-report and physiological measures

  • Daniel R. McLeod
    Address reprint requests to Dr. Daniel R. McLeod, Department of Psychiatry and Behaviorial Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Meyer 144, Baltimore, MD 21205 USA.
    From the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD USA
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  • Rudolf Hoehn-Saric
    From the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD USA
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  • Robin L. Stefan
    From the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD USA
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      The frequently reported absence of significant correlations between patient rating scales and physiological measures has led to the belief that patients cannot reliably perceive physiological changes that are experienced under conditions of stress. To determine whether or not this conclusion is justified for patients with clinical anxiety, self-reports and psychophysiological recordings were examined and compared in 20 patients suffering from generalized anxiety disorder. No systematic correlations were found between patient ratings and physiological measures of somatic symptomatology during periods of rest or psychological stress (Stroop Test). However, parallel directional changes in the two sets of measures were observed upon exposure to stress, indicating that patients could accurately report the direction, but not the degree, of changes in physical symptoms of anxiety. These results suggest that patient reports of physical symptoms such as sweating and rapid heart rate can be useful in clinical evaluation and research settings that do not require quantitative assessment of physiological activity.
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