Amplification, Somatization and the Somatoform Disorders by Arthur J. Barsky, M.D.

Somatosensory amplification refers to the tendency to experience bodily sensation as intense, noxious and disturbing. It includes an individuals disposition to focus on unpleasant sensations and to consider them as pathological rather than normal. Amplification appears to have both trait-like and state-like properties. As such, amplification may have a role in a variety of medical and psychiatric conditions characterized by somatic symptoms that are disproportionate to demonstrable organ pathology. Amplification may serve as a pathogenic mechanism in hypochondriasis, for example, or it may be a  more nonspecific concomitant of many psychiatric disorders that are characterized by prominent somatic features such as panic disorder and major depression. Amplification may also explain some of the variability in somatic symptomatology found among different patients with the same serious non psychiatric medical disorder.


There is great variability among individuals in sensitivity to visceral and somatic sensation. The threshold and tolerance of pathological pain, for example, varies widely among individuals…

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A Cognitive Approach to Panic

A cognitive model of panic is described. Within this model panic attacks are said to result from the catastrophic misinterpretation of certain bodily sensations. The sensations which are mis-interpreted are mainly those involved in normal anxiety responses (e.g. palpitations, breathlessness, dizziness etc.) but also include some other sensations. The catastrophic misinterpretation involves perceiving these sensations as much more dangerous than they really are (e.g. perceiving palpitations as evidence of an impending heart attack)

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