Unraveling the Relationship between Trait Negative Affectivity and Habitual Symptom Reporting

Katleen Bogaerts, Liselotte Rayen, Ann Lavrysen, Ilse Van Diest, Thomas Janssens, Koen Schruers, Omer Van den Bergh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective In two studies, we aimed at further elucidating the relationship between trait negative affectivity (NA) and habitual symptom reporting (HSR) by relating these variables to measures of executive function, trait questionnaires, and effects of emotion induction. Methods Healthy female participants (N = 75) were selected on their scores for trait NA and for the Checklist for Symptoms in Daily Life. Three groups were compared: (1) low NA-low HSR; (2) high NA-low HSR; and (3) high NA-high HSR (low NA-high HSR did not occur). In study 1, participants underwent a Parametric Go/No-go Task and a Stroop Color-Word test, and trait questionnaires measured alexithymia and absorption. Forty-five participants (N = 15 in each group) were further engaged in study 2 to induce state NA using an affective picture paradigm. Results Impaired inhibition on the Stroop and Go/No go Task characterized high trait NA, but not high HSR, whereas alexithymia and absorption were elevated in HSR, regardless of trait NA. Negative picture viewing induced elevated state NA in all groups, but only high HSR also reported more bodily symptoms. This effect was moderated, but not mediated by state NA. Conclusion High trait NA is a vulnerability factor but not a sufficient condition to develop HSR. Deficient inhibition is related to the broad trait of NA, whereas the moderating effect of state NA on symptom reporting is specific for high HSR. Understanding processes related to alexithymia and absorption may specifically help to explain elevated HSR.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0115748
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2015

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