Stability of Alexithymia and Its Relationships with the ‘Big Five’ Factors, Temperament, Character, and Attachment Style

Center of Epidemiology and Health Surveillance and Promotion, Italian National Institute of Health, Rome, Italy.
Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics (Impact Factor: 9.2). 02/2005; 74(6):371-8. DOI: 10.1159/000087785
Source: PubMed


Controversy still exists concerning the stability of the alexithymia construct. Also, although alexithymia has been found to be related in a theoretically meaningful way to other personality constructs such as the 'Big Five' factors, few studies have investigated its relationship with influential constructs such as temperament and character, and attachment security.
Two hundred twenty-one undergraduate and graduate students were administered the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20), the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), the Zung Depression Scale (ZDS), the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI-125), the Big Five Questionnaire (BFQ), and the Experiences in Close Relationships (ECR) questionnaire. After 1 month, 115 participants completed again the TAS-20, STAI, and ZDS.
Alexithymia was only moderately correlated with depression and anxiety. Both the absolute and relative stability of TAS-20 total and subscale scores was high, and a negligible portion of their change over time was accounted for by changes in depression or anxiety. In separate multiple regression models including also gender, age, depression and anxiety, TAS-20 total and subscale scores were correlated with low energy/extraversion, low emotional stability, openness, low friendliness/agreeableness; harm avoidance, low self-directedness, low cooperativeness, low reward dependence; attachment-related avoidance and anxiety.
Our findings lend support for both absolute and relative stability of alexithymia, corroborate an association between alexithymia and insecure attachment, and contribute to a coherent placing of alexithymia in the broader theoretical network of personality constructs.

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    • "This suggest that difficulties describing feelings should lead to experience less positive emotions as trait and state extraversion has been related to positive but not negative affect (Rusting and Larsen, 1997, McNiel and Fleeson, 2006). A positive correlation was observed with neuroticism (e.g., Picardi et al., 2005) but specifically for the factor " difficulties identifying feelings " (e.g., Elfhag and Lundh, 2007), suggesting that difficulties to identify feelings have more to do with negative but not positive affect as neuroticism has been associated with negative affect but not positive ones (Rusting and Larsen, 1997, McNiel and Fleeson, 2006). These data suggest that alexithymia should evidence contrasted patterns in relation with positive and negative affect intensity and affect frequency, and that these patterns may also be dependent of the alexithymia factors. "
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    ABSTRACT: Alexithymia has been frequently studied in the context of negative affect frequency but rarely in the context of positive affect frequency or in the context of affect intensity. However, affect intensity and frequency, even if they are independent, are generally confounded due to an overlap in items wording (tapping both dimensions). The aim of the study was to examine the incremental validity of alexithymia for predicting both affect intensity and frequency, regarding positive and negative valence. 255 students fulfilled measurements for alexithymia , affect intensity and affect frequency. Results showed that the factor “Difficulty identifying feelings” is related to higher positive and negative affect intensity, as well as to negative affect frequency. Men were also more sensitive to positive affect intensity and frequency if they scored higher on alexithymia. They experienced less often positive affect, but the intensity of their affect was more intense. Conversely, alexithymia did not influence women's affect intensity or affect frequency. Thus, alexithymia factors are associated with specific patterns of affect intensity and frequency, highlighting an overall deficit in the processing of emotions with contrasting patterns regarding gender
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · Psychiatry Research
    • "Alexithymia (AL) is construed as a stable personality trait characterized especially by poor assimilation of thoughts, feelings and emotions (Honkalampi et al., 2001; Martin and Pihl, 1985; Parker and Taylor, 1997; Picardi et al., 2005; Luminet et al., 2007; Taylor, 2004). Several brain regions and their associated networks have been implicated in alexithymic behavior suggesting a neurobiological underpinning for the trait. "
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    ABSTRACT: Psychosocial function and adherence to antiretroviral regimen are key factors in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease management. Alexithymia (AL) is a trait deficit in the ability to identify and describe feelings, emotions and bodily sensations. A structural equation model was used to test whether high levels of AL indirectly relate to greater non-adherent behavior and HIV disease severity via psychosocial dysfunction. Blood draws for HIV-1 viral load and CD4 T-lymphocyte, along with psychosocial surveys were collected from 439 HIV positive adults aged 18-73 years. The structural model supports significant paths from: (1) AL to non-active patient involvement, psychological distress, and lower social support, (2) psychological distress and non-active involvement to non-adherent behavior, and (3) non-adherence to greater HIV disease severity (CFI = .97, RMSEA = .04, SRMR = .05). A second model confirmed the intermediary effect of greater patient assertiveness on the path from AL to social support and non-active patient involvement (CFI = .94, RMSEA = .04, SRMR = .05). Altogether, AL is indirectly linked with HIV disease management through it's association with poor psychosocial function, however greater patient assertiveness buffers the negative impact of AL on relationship quality with healthcare providers and members of one's social support network.
    No preview · Article · Jul 2015 · AIDS and Behavior
    • "Carpenter and Chung [24] studied primarily the possible mediating effect of alexithymia regarding the association between childhood trauma and obsessive–compulsive symptoms, but they observed the association of alexithymia with attachment-related avoidance . Picardi et al. [23] reported that the relation between attachment dimensions and TAS-20 factor 3 was weaker as compared with factors 1 and 2. In the present study, this appeared to be the case regarding attachment-related anxiety, whereas the association with factor 3 was clearly significant for avoidance. Although the hypothesis in the study by Picardi et al. was the other way round and they found attachment-related anxiety and avoidance to be predictors of alexithymic features, the cross-sectional findings were quite similar in this respect. "
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    ABSTRACT: To investigate possible associations of alexithymia with marital satisfaction and mutual attachment between the partners in a group of parents-to-be during pregnancy. The present study was conducted in a pregnancy cohort. Cross-sectional data were available for 151 mothers and 106 fathers, and altogether 102 couples. The 20-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) was used to assess alexithymia, the Index of Marital Satisfaction (IMS) to assess romantic relationship satisfaction and the Experiences in Close Relationships Scale (ECR) to evaluate attachment-related anxiety and avoidance. Kruskal-Wallis test was used for categorized variable comparisons. For continuous variables, Spearman correlation analyses and linear regression analyses were conducted. The TAS-20 total score, as well as, two of its dimensions, difficulties in identifying and describing feelings, were significantly correlated (p<0.01) with both the IMS scores and the ECR anxiety and avoidance scores. In the regression analyses, the most significant predictive factor for the subjects' IMS scores was their partners' corresponding scores, although among fathers the IMS scores were partly explained by their own TAS-20 factor 1 scores (p=0.004). The subjects' own TAS-20 scores explained the ECR anxiety and avoidance scores to a significant extent, but the fathers' TAS-20 factor 3 scores were also associated with the mothers' avoidance scores (p=0.037). Alexithymia was not directly related to marital satisfaction. However, alexithymia appears to have a significant effect on relationship-related anxiety and avoidance. This association should be further studied in parents and their offspring in a longitudinal setting.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2014 · Comprehensive psychiatry
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