Patterns of 'abnormal' illness behavior among healthy individuals

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    Abstract

    Objectives: We extend the seminal work of Professor Issy Pilowsky by presenting a contemporary re-conceptualization of abnormal illness behavior (AIB) as a general psychological phenomenon evident among healthy community members. Methods: Participants (N = 344) completed a selfreport questionnaire comprising health information and well-validated psychological measures from the field of somatization (eg, AIB, attributional style for physical symptoms, cognitive distortion of somatic information, illness likelihood, maladaptive coping). Results: Cluster analysis of illness behavior responses resulted in 3 unique groupings distinguished by key health and psychological variables. Cluster 1 reflected 'normal' responses, Cluster 2 'atypical' and Cluster 3 'maladaptive'. Cluster 3 may represent a personality attribute indicative of a general style of interpreting illness in a more extreme way (trait AIB) whereas Cluster 2 may reflect a transient response to a specific illness event (state AIB). Conclusions: The construct of 'abnormal' illness behavior may usefully be extended to include individual differences in responses regardless of current health status. Furthermore, the potential to further characterize illness behavior as either dispositional (trait) or situational (state) emerges as a fruitful area for future analyses. Specifically, longitudinal studies are recommended to determine the causal links between health events and illness behavior profiles.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)139-146
    Number of pages8
    JournalAMERICAN JOURNAL OF HEALTH BEHAVIOR
    Volume41
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017

    Keywords

    • Abnormal illness behaviour
    • Cluster analysis
    • Healthy community members
    • Illness Behavior Questionnaire
    • Somatization

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