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Psychol Med. 2008 Dec;38(12):1717-22. doi: 10.1017/S0033291708003073. Epub 2008 Mar 26.

Is alexithymia a personality trait increasing the risk of depression? A prospective study evaluating alexithymia before, during and after a depressive episode.

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Department of Neurosciences, Psychiatric Section, University of Parma, Parma, Italy.



Whether alexithymia is a personality trait that increases the risk of major depression (MD) is still debated. In this prospective study, alexithymic levels were evaluated before, during and after a depressive episode.


The alexithymic levels, the presence of MD and the severity of anxious-depressive symptoms were evaluated at intervals of about 1 month in pregnant women attending the Centers for Prenatal Care, using the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS), the Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders (PRIME-MD) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS).


Sixteen women affected by MD, 21 affected by subthreshold depression and 112 non-depressed women were included in the study. Women who developed depression, compared to non-depressed women, showed similar TAS and HADS scores during the pre-morbid phase, a significant increase in the scores during depression and a significant decrease after remission, whereas no change was observed in non-depressed women.


Our data suggest that in pregnant women alexithymia does not represent a personality trait that increases the risk of developing a depressive episode, and they support the hypothesis that alexithymia is a state-dependent phenomenon in depressed pregnant women.

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