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The effects of body focus during sham exposure of subjects with electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) on somatic symptoms should be investigated.
A focus on the own body (body focus) can be an undesirable characteristic from a medical point of view as it can amplify symptoms and lead to higher levels of health anxiety. However, it is connected to mindfulness, well-being and the sense of self in psychotherapy.
A total of 72 subjects (36 with EHS and 36 healthy controls participated in the study. They were tested individually and were told that the study aims to measure symptoms caused by a magnetic field. The fact that no actual exposure would occur was not revealed.
Subjects were asked to place their right hand between two magnetic coils. Participants were told that the magnetic field would not be enabled (control trial). They were instructed to relax for two minutes and to report perceived symptoms following the trial. Afterwards, participants were (mis)informed that the magnetic field would be enabled during the next trial (sham exposure trial). They were asked to place their hand back into the coil system for two minutes, before reporting symptoms, as in the first trial.
No parameters are specified for this exposure.
The analysis of the relation of body focus to electromagnetic hypersensitivity revealed that somatosensory amplification was significantly associated to EHS and the best predictor for this condition.
Subjects with EHS reported significantly more symptoms during the control trial than control subjects. During sham exposure, the amount of symptoms increased significantly in EHS subjects compared to the control trial. No significant differences between both trials were found in control subjects.
In the EHS subjects, the changes in reported symptoms were significantly positively correlated to health anxiety and state anxiety. In the control group, symptoms reports were only significantly correlated to health anxiety, however, in a negative way (i.e. subjects with health anxiety reported statistically fewer symptoms during the sham exposure trial than during the control trial).
The authors conclude that body focus, especially somatosensory amplification, might be an important factor contributing to electromagnetic hypersensitivity and probably its etiology. These results may be of use in the therapy of medically-unexplained symptoms.