Hypochondrias tolerate pain in same way as anyone else, study finds

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People who suffer anxiety and hypochondria are just as likely to tolerate pain as anyone else, research suggests.

Previous studies have suggested that hypochondriacs are more susceptible to pain and have a lower threshold or tolerance for it than those who have no health anxiety.

But a new study from the University of Buckingham psychology department found that a whole range of people experienced pain in the same way - and personality appears to have no bearing on it.

Published in the British Journal of Pain, experts analysed the reactions of 76 people who were told they were going to have their hand plunged into freezing cold water.

They were then screened for how long it took them to report the first signs of pain once their hand was in the water, and for how long they could keep their hand submerged before being unable to bear it any longer.

The results showed that even those people who, before the test, felt very anxious about the pain they would experience were actually in similar amounts of pain to those who were more relaxed.

Study author Jenna Gillett said: “The findings of this research are very exciting - to our knowledge no one has ever tested how the personality traits neuroticism, introversion and pain anticipation interact and moderate each other.

“What we found is surprising because it goes against a large body of personality research.

“This study is an important platform for health psychology and challenges the common belief that personality alters how we anticipate and experience pain.

“It also means we need to consider how hypochondriacs differ from the rest of us. It’s not necessarily their personalities that cause them to be especially fearful of pain.”

She said previous studies have suggested that people who are anxious, neurotic or introverted are more likely to fear pain and therefore experience something as more painful.

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