Intolerable feelings of uncertainty within the body: Associations between interoceptive awareness, intolerance of uncertainty, and body dissatisfaction

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Abstract

Background: Adolescence is a period marked by important physical and social changes, which often leads to an increase of body dissatisfaction. Recent studies have shown an association between interoception and body dissatisfaction in female adolescents. One variable that may contribute to the association between interoceptive awareness and body dissatisfaction is intolerance of uncertainty (IU). This study aims to investigate multiple facets of interoceptive awareness, IU, and their relations with body dissatisfaction in adolescent girls. 

Methods: In a cross-sectional study, a convenience sample of 307 adolescent girls (mean age = 17.73; SD = 1.02) was recruited in the Netherlands in 2022. Three questionnaires were completed measuring interoceptive awareness, IU, and body dissatisfaction. A moderation analyses using a multiple hierarchical regression was used to investigate associations between variables. 

Results: Correlation analyses indicated that several facets of lower interoceptive awareness (Not distracting, Not worrying and Trusting) were related to higher levels of body dissatisfaction. IU only marginally moderated the relationship between several domains of interoceptive awareness (Notice, Attention regulation and Emotional awareness) and body dissatisfaction. 

Discussion: Findings suggest that experiencing bodily signals as ambiguous and uncertain may result in more complex body image issues. Within certain domains of interoceptive awareness, IU may affect the process of appraising bodily signals. Furthermore, adolescent girls who do not feel safe in their body and who find it difficult to distract their thoughts when experiencing pain or discomfort in their body may be particularly at risk for developing more complex body image disturbances and may benefit from interventions improving both interoceptive awareness and IU. Moreover, future research should focus on interoceptive awareness and IU as potential underlying mechanisms for body image issues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1678-1688
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Adolescence
Volume95
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Keywords

  • adolescent girls
  • body dissatisfaction
  • interoceptive awareness
  • intolerance of uncertainty

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