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"Elöverkänslighet" : En förklaringsmodell, några karakteristika hos drabbade och effekten av psykologisk behandling med kognitiv-beteendeterapeutiska metoder

"Electricity hypersensitivity" : An explanatory-model, some characteristics of sufferers and effects of psychological treatment with cognitive-behavioural methods


  • Uwe Harlacher

Summary, in English

The thesis examines various aspects of "electricity hypersensitivity" (EH). An empirical investigation of a group of persons suffering from EH was carried out, a part of the group being treated psychologically according to cognitive- behavioural principles in a controlled outcome study. The major findings concern an explanatory-model of EH, the the assessment of characteristics of EH-sufferers and the effects of the psychological treatment of EH.

The explanatory model for the development and maintenance of EH can be summarized as follows. Persons suffering from symptoms for which they lack an explanation search for an explanation within and outside the medical system.

If they consider EH to be a possible explanation, they test the hypothesis that this is the case through exposing themselves to electromagnetic fields and concomitantly performing self-observations in a manner making it probable that the experiencing of their symptoms will be intensified. They then attribute the intensification of their symptoms to electricity. Once their belief in their suffering from EH is established, they gradually develop a cognitive schema regarding EH, one that is self-validating. Belief in EH can lead to the experiencing of a variety of secondary symptoms.

The characteristics of EH-sufferers on various psychometric measures appear to resmble much more those of a normal population than of a psychopathologic one. Certain characteristics suggest particular vulnerability to adverse stress-effects, which in turn could result in a proneness to develop EH.

There was found to be a significant reduction in the degree of EH-suffering of patients trated with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) as compared with controls (patients offered CBT treatment later). A conservative assessment of the treatment results indicated 50% of those treated to be "cured" or at least reliably improved in the sense of their physical symptoms having disappeared or diminished and their no longer considering the symptoms they had or have to be due to their exposure to elctromagnetic fields. The treatment principles employed are described and questions of the adequate assessment of EH and the adequacy of outcome predictors are discussed, as are the characteristics of EH-sufferers.

Suggestions are made for empirical testing of the explanatory-model advanced. It is argued that EH can be regarded as a variant of disorders that develop in connection with perceived environmental threats.

Publishing year




Document type



Almqvist & Wiksell International


  • Psychology


  • cognitive behaviour therapy
  • electricity hypersensitivity
  • cognitive schema
  • Applied and experimental psychology
  • idiopathic environmental intolerance
  • Tillämpad och experimentell psykologi




  • [unknown] [unknown]


  • ISBN: 91-22-01789-5
  • ISRN: LUSADG/SATP--98/1021--SE

Defence date

23 April 1998

Defence time


Defence place

Edens hörsal, Paradisgatan 5H, Lund


  • Sven Sveback (Professor)