Alexithymia, emotion, and somatic complaints.

Department of Psychology, Stockholm University.
Journal of Personality (Impact Factor: 2.44). 07/2001; 69(3):483-510.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Alexithymia, by definition, involves difficulties in identifying and describing emotions and has been assumed to be associated with somatization (i.e., a tendency to express psychological distress in somatic rather than emotional form). Empirical research so far, however, has produced no convincing evidence that alexithymia is more associated with somatic complaints than with emotional complaints or that alexithymia correlates with somatic complaints when negative affect is controlled for. In the present study, alexithymia, as measured by the TAS-20, showed no association with somatic complaints in a community sample of 137 individuals when trait anxiety and depression were controlled. Alexithymia did correlate negatively with positive affect, and positively with negative affect. The former association, however, was much more robust, whereas the latter association was found mainly on subjective trait measures of negative affect (as distinct from state measures and more objective trait measures derived from daily recordings during an 8-week period). It is suggested that the association between alexithymia and lack of positive affect deserves more attention in future research.

Download full-text


Available from: Lars-Gunnar Lundh, Aug 11, 2015
  • Source
    • "Indeed, as alexithymic people have difficulty identifying and expressing emotions, it is not clear why they report higher anxiety than their non alexithymic counterparts (see also Woodman et al., 2008). This apparent paradox is likely associated with the alexithymic difficulty in differentiating between emotions (Lundh and Simonsson-Sarnecki, 2001 "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: High-risk activities have typically been explored within a sensation seeking framework. They may, however, allow those with emotional difficulties to experience and regulate their emotions. Skydivers (n=87) completed anxiety and heart rate data four times on a single day before and after a skydive. A 2 (group: alexithymic; non alexithymic) x 4 (time) ANOVA with repeated measures on the second factor revealed a significant alexithymia x time interaction, F(2.27, 192.60)=45.48, p<.001, eta(2)=.35. Anxiety fluctuated significantly more for alexithymic skydivers than it did for their non alexithymic counterparts. This interaction was not mirrored by heart rate. The relationship between alexithymia and anxiety remained significant when accounting for sensation seeking. The results leave open interpretations that are based on anhedonia, which was not controlled for. Alexithymic individuals may find, in the high-risk domain, an environment that satisfies their emotion regulation needs.
    Journal of Affective Disorders 12/2008; 116(1-2):134-8. DOI:10.1016/j.jad.2008.11.022 · 3.71 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "Nevertheless, even if a strong relationship between type I and/or type II alexithymia and somatization can be demonstrated, the relationship may not be direct. In particular , it has been shown that alexithymia may represent a vulnerability factor which predisposes individuals to experience increased negative affect (NA), which in turn leads to medically unexplained symptoms (Lundh and Simonsson-Sarnecki, 2001). Thus, NA should be considered as a possible mediating factor when studying the relationship between alexithymia and somatization. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Whilst alexithymia has been consistently linked to somatization, two prominent theoretical models lead to opposite predictions as to which of two proposed typologies of alexithymia will be particularly associated with somatic symptom reporting. In the present study, participants were recruited from a cross-section of the general adult population (n=301), and asked to complete a battery of self-report questionnaires which assessed alexithymia, somatization and negative affect. Collapsed across the whole sample, specific facets of alexithymia (enhanced fantasy life and difficulty identifying emotions) were significantly associated with somatization, and these pathways were perfectly mediated by negative affectivity. Further, type II alexithymia (impairment in the cognitive but not the affective dimension of alexithymia) was more predictive of somatization relative to type I alexithymia (impairment in both the cognitive and affective dimensions of alexithymia) and non-alexithymia (unimpaired in the cognitive and affective dimensions of alexithymia). The theoretical and clinical implications of these results are discussed.
    Psychiatry Research 03/2007; 150(1):13-20. DOI:10.1016/j.psychres.2006.05.024 · 2.68 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "0.285, p = 0.198; gender decisions: r = 0.268, p = 0.228) and no correlation between TAS score and error rates (emotion decisions: r = − 0.268, p = 0.227; gender decisions: r = 0.076, p = 0.735). Consistent with previous studies (Eizaguirre et al., 2004; Lundh and Simonsson-Sarnecki, 2001 "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Even simple perceptual decisions are influenced by the emotional content of a stimulus. Recent neuroimaging studies provide evidence about the neural mechanisms of perceptual decision making on emotional stimuli. However, the effect of individual differences in cognitive processing of emotions on perceptual decision making remains poorly understood. Here, we investigated how changes in the fMRI signal during perceptual decision making on facial stimuli covaried with individual differences in the ability to identify and communicate one's emotional state. Although this personality trait covaried with changes in activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) during gender decisions on facial expressions, there was no correlation during emotion decisions. Further, we investigated whether individual differences in the ability to cognitively process emotions depend on differences in the functional integration of emotional and cognitive brain regions. We therefore compared task-dependent changes in effective connectivity of dACC in individuals with good and with poor ability to cognitively process emotions using a psychophysiological interaction analysis. We found greater coupling of dACC with prefrontal regions in individuals with good ability to identify and communicate their emotional state. Conversely, individuals with poor ability in this domain showed greater coupling of dACC with the amygdala. Our data indicate that individual differences in the ability to identify and communicate one's emotional state are reflected by altered effective connectivity of the dACC with prefrontal and limbic regions. Thus, we provide neurophysiological evidence for a theoretical model that posits that a discommunication between limbic areas and the neocortex impairs cognitive processing of emotions.
    NeuroImage 12/2006; 33(3):1016-27. DOI:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2006.07.031 · 6.36 Impact Factor
Show more