Somatoform disorders as disorders of affect regulation: a study comparing the TAS-20 with non-self-report measures of alexithymia.

Department of Psychosomatic and Psychotherapeutic Medicine, University Hospital of Freiburg, Hauptstr. 8, D-79104, Freiburg, Germany.
Journal of Psychosomatic Research (Impact Factor: 2.84). 10/2004; 57(3):239-47.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT To determine the role of undifferentiated and dysregulated affects in somatoform disorders by using a multimethod assessment approach of alexithymia.
Forty patients with ICD-10 somatoform disorders (SoD) and 20 healthy controls, matched for age, education and sex, were included in the study. Alexithymia was assessed using the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20), the Affect Consciousness Interview (ACI), and the Levels of Emotional Awareness Scale (LEAS). All classifications were made blinded with regard to clinical status.
Scores of the ACI and the TAS-20 showed that alexithymia is higher in SoD than in healthy controls. No differences were found on the LEAS. In terms of the multidimensionality of the alexithymia construct, our results indicate a specific positive association between SoD and a proneness to experience undifferentiated affects. The three subfactors of the TAS-20 were differentially related to non-self-report measures of alexithymia and to negative affectivity (NA). Only the cognitive facet of the TAS-20 (externally oriented thinking [EOT]) was related to the LEAS and the ACI. In contrast, the affective facets of the TAS-20-difficulties identifying feelings (DIF) and difficulties describing feelings (DDF)-were substantially related to NA.
The findings highlight the important role of impaired affect regulation and NA in the process of somatization.

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