What is alexithymia? Using factor analysis to establish its latent structure and relationship with fantasizing and emotional reactivity

David Preece, Rodrigo Becerra, Ken Robinson, Alfred Allan, Boyes Mark, Wai Chen, Penelope Hasking, James Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective

There is ongoing uncertainty about the structure and definition of alexithymia. Conceptually, alexithymia has traditionally been defined as a multidimensional trait with four components: difficulty identifying feelings , difficulty describing feelings , externally orientated thinking , and difficulty fantasizing . However, some authors suggest that difficulty fantasizing might not be a component, and others suggest low emotional reactivity is a fifth component. In this study, we sought to clarify this issue using factor analysis.
Method

In a sample of adults (N =508), we administered a comprehensive battery of psychometric measures and analyzed their latent structure using an exploratory factor analysis.
Results

Subscales assessing difficulty identifying feelings, difficulty describing feelings, and externally orientated thinking all loaded well together on the alexithymia factor. However, none of the subscales assessing aspects of difficulty fantasizing (i.e., daydreaming frequency, vividness, content, or use of daydreams to regulate emotions) loaded on the alexithymia factor. Similarly, no emotional reactivity subscales loaded on the alexithymia factor, and alexithymia was associated with higher (not lower) levels of emotional reactivity for negative emotions.
Conclusions

Difficulty fantasizing and low emotional reactivity are not components of the latent alexithymia construct. The traditional four‐component definition of alexithymia likely warrants refinement to a more parsimonious three‐component solution
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1162-1176
JournalJournal of Personality
Volume88
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

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