The relation between medically unexplained symptoms and susceptibility to anticipatory state social anxiety (measured with the acoustic startle reflex and STAI)
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Background and aim: subjects with medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) show greater startle responsiveness resulting from aversive physiological stimulation compared with subjects without MUS. It has been suggested that an enhanced degree of anxiety is responsible for this effect. Current study attempts to determine whether subjects with MUS (HMUS subjects) are more susceptible to anticipatory state social anxiety compared with subjects without MUS (LMUS subjects). Methods: subjects were fifteen female college students. The acoustic startle reflex (ASR), and a self-assessment with the STAI-state anxiety questionnaire, were used as measures of the degree of state social anxiety. The differentiation between HMUS and LMUS was achieved by means of SCL-90 mean scores. The social speech task was used to induce state social anxiety in subjects. Results: in contrast to what was to be expected, there is no significant difference between experimental conditions with regard to the ASR of HMUS and LMUS subjects. Furthermore, there is no significant difference regarding the STAI-state measurements of HMUS and LMUS subjects between experimental conditions. Conclusion: having medically unexplained symptoms did not lead to a higher susceptibility to anxiety within the research population. Due to the limited n, reservations are to be taken into account with regard to the generalization of the results.