Is there is a burden attached to synaesthesia? Health screening of synaesthetes in the general population

Carmichael, Duncan A, Smees, Rebecca, Shillcock, Richard C and Simner, Julia (2018) Is there is a burden attached to synaesthesia? Health screening of synaesthetes in the general population. British Journal of Psychology. ISSN 0007-1269

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Synaesthesia has long been considered a benign alternative form of perception most often associated with positive rather than negative outcomes. The condition has been associated with a variety of cognitive and perceptual advantages, including benefits in memory, processing speed and creativity. It is not currently recognised in the DSM-IV. Recently however, several studies have raised the question of a possible link between synaesthesia and clinical conditions. Here, we present the first large-scale screening of the general population in which we (a) objectively identified grapheme-colour synaesthetes and (b) elicited information from our participants about a range of clinical conditions. We compared the prevalence rates of these conditions in synaesthetes versus non-synaesthetes to establish whether any conditions were found at a higher rate among synaesthetes. In our initial study screening 3742 people (95 synaesthetes and 3647 controls) we found initially that grapheme-colour was significantly comorbid with two conditions (anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder). In our second study, screening a new population of 120 synaesthetes and 166 non-synaesthetes, we replicated our finding that grapheme-colour synaesthesia is comorbid with anxiety disorder. At the same time we also addressed a methodological concern that likely elevated rates of OCD in Study 1. We consider the aetiology of synaesthesia to determine whether there may be a shared genetic or neurological basis with anxiety disorder, and we question the status of synaesthesia within a mental health framework.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Synaesthesia; comorbidity; anxiety; OCD; health
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Depositing User: Sanjeedah Choudhury
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2018 11:55
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2019 01:00

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