Bodily Distress Disorders
Full course description
Why do a relatively large number of individuals complain about longstanding bodily complaints, and continue to seek medical care despite the absence of a medical cause of their complaints? This course focuses on the mental representations of bodily symptoms, and their effects on observable behaviours, which can be quite disabling. Interestingly, a shift in scientific focus has occurred in the last decade from stable individual traits towards more dynamic transdiagnostic psychological processes. The emphasis of this course is on the cognitive and behavioural mechanisms (e.g. conditioning, reasoning, attention, avoidance) that play a role in the aetiology and maintenance of chronic pain, shortness of breath (dyspnea), ringing in the ears, and fear of serious illnesses. Evidence-based cognitive-behavioural interventions are discussed. Because of its prototypical character, the problem of chronic pain and pain disorder will be the main focus of this course.
The course starts with three introductory sessions during which a modern approach of bodily distress disorders is presented. In each of the four subsequent ‘meet-the-expert’ sessions, a lecturer specialised in a particular disorder from a collaborating university lab is invited, and students will be given the opportunity to actively interact with the experts. If possible, a visit to one of the experts’ labs will be organised. In previous years, this was the lab of the research group Health Psychology at the University of Leuven (Belgium). The course ends with an interactive mini-symposium during which students present their research paper.
Students will be able to understand:
theoretical approaches of symptom perception and body appearance concerns, catastrophic (mis)interpretations of bodily symptoms, congenital insensitivity to pain, gate-control theory of pain, sensory-discriminative and affective dimension of interception, neural correlates of pain, pain matrix, descending modulation, theories of health anxiety, fear-avoidance model of pain, interoceptive conditioning, safety behaviours, attentional processes, stress, coping and acceptance, communal coping model, self-consciousness, self-discrepancies, air hunger, differences and communalities between pain and dyspnea, experimental pain and dyspnea induction methods, cognitive-behavioural treatment for bodily distress disorders, exposure.