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Psychother Psychosom. 1997;66(5):276-80.

Alexithymia, neurovegetative arousal and neuroticism. An experimental study.

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  • 1Servizio Psichiatrico, La Spezia, Italy.



The association between alexithymia and higher sympathetic vegetative reactivity (emotional arousal) is still controversial.


The objective of this study was to examine differences in the electrodermic reactivity (neurovegetative arousal) of alexithymic subjects compared to nonalexithymic subjects. The study was also designed to determine whether alexithymia is linked to neuroticism (negative emotions). The study sample consisted of 56 psychiatric outpatients. The values for the neurovegetative variables (polygraphic computerized registration) were determined under three different experimental conditions: baseline (relaxation) and two conditions of stress (cognitive and visual stimuli).


Vegetative reactivity, TAS score (Toronto Alexithymia Scale) and other clinical/test variables showed statistically significant differences between the two groups of patients. Alexithymic subjects demonstrated a high and stable level of autonomic reactivity at baseline and under stress, a greater neuroticism and a tendency to internalize emotional responses.


The application of the alexithymic concept to the field of somatization represents a reliable instrument of detection, with important therapeutic implications.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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