Alexithymia in somatoform and depressive disorders

V. Duddu, Mohan Isaac, S.K. Chaturvedi

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    73 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective: Alexithymia and its association with attribution styles, amplification and illness attitudes was studied among subjects with somatoform disorders, depressive disorders and normal Subjects. Methods: Two groups of 30 subjects each, bearing diagnoses of somatoform disorder and depressive disorder respectively (ICD-10 DCR), and one group of 30 normal controls were recruited. The study subjects were assessed using the Toronto Alexithymia Scale and scales for assessing attribution styles, amplification and illness attitudes. Results: Mean alexithymia scores in the somatoform (60.4) and depressive disorder groups (62.5) were higher than in normal subjects (54.2). In the somatoform disorder group, total alexithymia and 'difficulty describing feelings' scores positively correlated with psychological attribution (the latter correlation was also noted in the depressive disorder group), but not with the illness attitudes, amplification, somatic attribution scores or any of the sociodemographic variables. Compared with normal subjects, those with somatoform and depressive disorder had greater difficulty in identifying bodily sensations and feelings. Subjects with depressive disorder had more difficulty in expressing feelings compared to somatoform disorder subjects. Conclusions: While total alexithymia scores do not differentiate somatoform from depressive disorders, the two diagnostic groups do differ in that depressed subjects have greater difficulty in expressing feelings. However, all three groups had mean scores within the non-alexithymic range. Alexithymia and difficulty in expressing feelings were associated with psychological attribution of innocuous bodily sensations in the somatoform disorder group suggesting that alexithymic subjects are more able to psychologize bodily symptoms than non-alexithymic subjects. Somatoform and depressive disorder subjects and normals differ from each other in certain alexithymic characteristics, which could have potential therapeutic implications. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)435-438
    JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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