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Scott Med J. 2006 Aug;51(3):15-20.

Alexithymia in diabetes mellitus.

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  • 1Kocaeli University Faculty of Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, Kocaeli. topsever@superonline.com



Diabetes mellitus is a chronic, progressive disease with complex therapy protocols requiring major coping efforts from patients to achieve and maintain glycaemic control in order to reduce risk of diabetic complications. Disease coping strategies including good knowledge of diabetes and high ability of self-care have been reported to be impaired by alexithymic features. Alexithymia is a psychological construct characterised by inability to express emotions verbally, poor imagination and operational thinking, leading to failure in psychological self-regulation.


To compare prevalence of alexithymia and mean Toronto Alexithymia Scale-26 (TAS-26) scores in diabetic patients with non-diabetic controls; to investigate the association of alexithymia with glycemic control in diabetes.


In this cross- sectional study, TAS-26 scores of 193 diabetic patients and 49 non-diabetic controls were compared. Disease related factors were obtained from patient records. Alexithymia was used as a continuous (mean TAS-26 scores) and semi-quantitative (dichotomised into non-alexithymic 11>TAS-26 scores>11 and alexithymic individuals) variable. Descriptive data are presented as mean +/- SD, median (range) or %. Differences in means were compared via Independent-Samples T Test and One-Way ANOVA. Proportions were analysed with chi-square test and odds ratios (OR) were calculated via cross tabulation with a confidence interval (CI) of 95%. P<0.05 was considered statistically significant.


The control group was similar with respect to age, gender and education with the diabetic group. In the diabetic study population (n=193, male/female: 42/58%, age 54.2 +/- 14.0 years, median diabetes duration 7 years (1-32 years), postprandial blood glucose (PBG) 243 +/- 110 mg/dl HbA1 c 7.3 +/- 3.6%) prevalence of alexithymia was significantly higher than in the control group (65 % in diabetics vs. 45 % in controls, p=0.011; mean TAS-26 score 12.3 +/- 3.7 vs. 10.6 +/- 3.6, p=0.004, respectively). Poor postprandial glycaemic control (p=0.002), female gender (p=0.026), combination therapy (p=0.037) and poor educational level (p=0.005) were positively associated with TAS-26 scores in diabetic individuals. Alexithymic diabetic patients were less educated (OR=1.2, p=0.046) and under worse glycaemic control (OR=2.4, p=0.005) compared to their non-alexithymic counterparts.

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