Alexithymia and eating disorder symptoms: the mediating role of emotion regulation

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Objective: Preliminary research has found evidence to suggest alexithymia acts as a risk factor for the development of psychopathology symptoms, due to its impairing role on emotion regulation ability. Eating disorder symptoms have been extensively linked to high levels of alexithymia and emotion regulation difficulties, yet little is known about the precise mechanisms behind these interactions. The current study investigates whether emotion regulation difficulties drive the association between alexithymia and eating disorder symptoms. Method: An online questionnaire battery consisting of psychometric self-report measures was administered to 255 undergraduate students. Measures included the Perth Alexithymia Questionnaire (PAQ), Perth Emotion Regulation Competency Inventory (PERCI), and the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q). Results: A parallel mediation analysis was conducted, finding that the relationship between alexithymia and eating disorder symptoms was partially mediated by difficulties regulating positive emotions. Conclusions: These findings support contemporary theory, which recognises alexithymia as an important risk factor for psychopathology symptoms due to its impairing effect on emotion regulation ability. These results highlight the importance of considering the relationship between alexithymia and emotion regulation when conceptualising cases and planning eating disorder treatment and prevention measures.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAustralian Psychologist
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Sept 2023

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