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To know or not to know? Mentalization as a protector from somatic complaints

Ballespí, S; Vives, J; Alonso, N; Sharp, C; Salvadora, M; Fonagy, P; Barrantes-Vidal, N; (2019) To know or not to know? Mentalization as a protector from somatic complaints. PLoS ONE , 14 (5) , Article e0215308. 10.1371/journal.pone.0215308. Green open access

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Abstract

Somatization processes are usually associated to diminished mentalization (MZ) or emotional unawareness. However, how different levels of insight explain variations in somatization has been less analysed. This study aims to check whether high-level of emotional awareness (comprehension) but not low-level (only attention) is needed to psychologically deal with suffering, thus leading to lower somatization. Specific predictions are: 1) High attention along with High comprehension (“True insight”) will be associated to significantly lower frequency of somatic complaints than other MZ positions (Low attention and Low comprehension, labelled as Mind-blindness, or High attention but Low comprehension, labelled as Defenceless permeability); 2) In absence of comprehension, Mind-blindness will be better than only attention (permeability) in terms of somatic complaints, because the last 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% of girls; Aged 12-18). Results revealed significant differences in the effects of MZ positions on somatic complaints according to predictions: True insight (M=4.9, SE=0.9) < Mind-blindness (M=7.1, SE=0.3) < Permeability (M=8.9, SE=0.7). So, compared to Mind-blindness, True insight significantly diminishes somatic complaints (B=-2.2, p=0.03, 95% CI -4,1 to 0.2), while Defenceless permeability increases them (B=1.8, p=0.03, 95% CI 0.2 to 3.4). Only attention (Defenceless permeability) increases somatic complaints compared to attention+comprehension (True insight) (B=4, CI 95% 1.6-6.3, p=0.001). This highlights the role of higher order awareness (comprehension) in the processing of suffering and stresses its value in the adaptive coping of emotional distress.

Type: Article
Title: To know or not to know? Mentalization as a protector from somatic complaints
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0215308
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0215308
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright: © 2019 Ballespí et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10072706
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