Exploring the comorbidity of alexithymia, depressive disorders, and personality disorders in a substance abuse population
Akkerman, Rhonda Lynn
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Alexithymia is a clinically derived psychological construct that involves difficulty identifying and expressing affective states. The construct was developed from research on psychosomatic disorders conducted in the early 1960's. Alexithymia has since been expanded beyond its traditional psychosomatic roots and its relationship to diverse Axis I diagnoses, including eating, substance use, and anxiety disorders, has been investigated. Despite alexithymia's expansion to diverse populations, its relationship to various forms of psychopathology remains unclear. Further, there is a notable lack of studies investigating the relationship of alexithymia to personality traits and disorders. In order to address this paucity of research, the following study investigated the relationship of alexithymia, depressive disorders and personality disorders in a substance abuse population. One hundred and thirty-nine chemically dependent inpatients, who entered an addiction recovery program, participated in the study. Results indicate that individuals diagnosed with comorbid Axis I and Axis II conditions were more likely to report experiencing the classic characteristics of alexithymia. Alexithymia demonstrated a relationship with depression as well as diverse forms of personality pathology. Findings suggest that alexithymia may not reliably be viewed as either a state or trait variable. Possible explanations regarding these findings are discussed. In addition, a longitudinal study investigating the course of depression and alexithymia is suggested.