Objective: The question of how to best conceptualize health anxiety (HA) from a diagnostic and etiological perspective remains debated. The aim was to examine the relationship between HA and the symptoms of anxiety and obsessive–compulsive-related disorders in a normative twin population. Method: Four hundred and ninety-six monozygotic adult twin pairs from the Australian Twin Registry participated in the study (age, 34.4 ± 7.72 years; 59% females). Validated scales were used to assess each domain. We applied a twin regression methodology—ICE FALCON—to determine whether there was evidence consistent with ‘causal’ relationships between HA and other symptoms by fitting and comparing model estimates. Results: Estimates were consistent with higher levels of obsessing (‘unwanted thoughts’) (P = 0.008), social anxiety (P = 0.03), and body dysmorphic symptoms (P = 0.008) causing higher levels of HA symptoms, and with higher levels of HA symptoms causing higher levels of physical/somatic anxiety symptoms (P = 0.001). Conclusion: Obsessional thoughts, body dysmorphic concerns, and social anxiety symptoms may have a causal influence on HA. To report physical/somatic anxiety appears to be a consequence of the underlying presence of HA-related fears. Should our results be confirmed by longitudinal studies, the evaluation and treatment of HA may benefit from the consideration of these identified risk factors.
- body dysmorphic disorder
- health anxiety
- obsessive–compulsive disorder
- twin studies