To know or not to know? Mentalization as protection from somatic complaints

Sergi Ballespí, Jaume Vives, Naida Alonso, Carla Sharp, María Salvadora Ramírez, Peter Fonagy, Neus Barrantes-Vidal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Somatization processes are usually associated with a lack of insight or with emotional unawareness, especially in adolescents where the ability for self-reflection is beginning to mature. However, the extent to which different levels of insight explain variations in somatization remains understudied. This study aimed to evaluate whether high-level emotional awareness (comprehension) but not low-level awareness (only attention) is needed to psychologically cope with suffering, thus leading to lower somatization. Specific predictions were: 1) High attention along with High comprehension will be associated with significantly lower frequency of somatic complaints than other combinations (Low attention and Low comprehension, or High attention but Low comprehension); 2) In absence of comprehension, no attention will be more optimal than attention only, because only-attention might work as an amplificatory of suffering without the possibility of processing it. Self-reports of meta-cognitive processes, somatization, and control variables were obtained from 264 adolescents from a non-clinical population (54.5% female; aged 12–18, M = 14.7, SD = 1.7). In line with expectations, results revealed significant differences in the effects of insight positions on somatization: Attention+Comprehension (M = 4.9, SE = 0.9) <Nothing (M = 7.1, SE = 0.3) <Only attention (M = 8.9, SE = 0.7). Compared to Nothing, Attention+comprehension was associated with significantly reduced somatic complaints (B = -2.2, p = 0.03, 95% CI -4,1 to 0.2). However, Only attention was associated with increased somatic complaints compared to the other two conditions (B = 1.8, p = 0.03, 95% CI 0.2 to 3.4; B = 4, CI 95% 1.6–6.3, p = 0.001, respectively). This highlights the role of higher-order awareness (i.e., comprehension or clarity) in the processing of suffering and stresses its value in the adaptive coping of emotional distress.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0215308
Pages (from-to)e0215308
Number of pages20
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume14
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2019

Keywords

  • BORDERLINE PERSONALITY-DISORDER
  • CHILDHOOD TRAUMA
  • COGNITIVE-BEHAVIORAL THERAPY
  • MULTIDIMENSIONAL ANXIETY SCALE
  • PERCEIVED EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
  • PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS
  • PSYCHOMETRIC PROPERTIES
  • SEX-DIFFERENCES
  • SOCIAL ANXIETY
  • SOMATOFORM DISORDERS

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'To know or not to know? Mentalization as protection from somatic complaints'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this