Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine
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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 41  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 368-374

Deficits in theory of mind and emotional awareness in somatoform disorders

Department of Psychiatry, NIMHANS, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Geetha Desai
Department of Psychiatry, NIMHANS, Bengaluru - 560 029, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/IJPSYM.IJPSYM_382_18

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Introduction: Emotions develop from a less differentiated to a highly differentiated level, and their arrest at a lower level is hypothesized to result in somatization. The present study aimed at investigating the Theory of Mind and emotional awareness in patients with somatoform disorders. Materials and Methods: Twenty patients with somatoform disorders, along with 20 healthy controls matched for age, sex, and education, were recruited after obtaining informed consent. Assessments included semi-structured proforma for sociodemographic and clinical details; Scale for Assessment of Somatic Symptoms (SASS) for somatic symptoms; and Patients Health Questionnaire (PHQ) to assess somatic symptoms, depression, and anxiety. Emotional awareness was measured using the Levels of Emotional Awareness Scale (LEAS), in which the participants had to provide descriptions of feelings of self and the other person in 20 imaginary situations. The responses were scored using a standardized manual. The Theory of Mind was measured using the Social Cognition Rating Tool in Indian Settings (SOCRATIS). Results: The two groups did not differ on any demographic parameters. Patients with somatoform disorders scored significantly lower on emotional awareness (t = −3.74; P < 0.001) and the Theory of Mind (t = −3.56; P < 0.001). The above differences remained significant even after controlling for comorbid depressive and anxiety symptoms. Conclusion: Patients with somatoform disorders are likely to have Theory of Mind and emotional awareness deficits independent of mood states. Future studies are needed to assess whether these deficits are trait- or state-dependent and whether they are cause or effect.

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