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Curr Addict Rep. 2016 Jun;3(2):239-248. Epub 2016 Apr 11.

Alexithymia and Addiction: A Review and Preliminary Data Suggesting Neurobiological Links to Reward/Loss Processing.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.
2
Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510, USA; CASAColumbia, New York, NY, USA.
3
Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510, USA; CASAColumbia, New York, NY, USA; Department of Neurobiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510, USA; Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510, USA; Connecticut Mental Health Center, New Haven, CT 06519, USA.

Abstract

Alexithymia, characterized by impairments in emotional awareness, is common among individuals with substance use disorders. Research on alexithymia suggests that it is a trait that may contribute to substance dependence. This paper will review alexithymia as it relates to substance use and substance use disorders, considering its potential role in the maintenance and treatment of these disorders. We will then describe how neural correlates associated with alexithymia may shed light on how alexithymia relates to addiction. Finally, we present preliminary fMRI data that examines how alexithymia may relate to the neurobiological correlates of reward/loss processing in individuals with cocaine dependence. While preliminary, these findings suggest a role of alexithymia in reward anticipation in cocaine-dependent individuals.

KEYWORDS:

Addiction; Alexithymia; Emotion; Reward processing; Substance abuse; fMRI

Conflict of interest statement

Compliance with Ethical Standards: Conflict of Interest Kristen P. Morie, Sarah W. Yip, Charla Nich, and Karen Hunkele declare that they have no conflict of interest. Kathleen M. Carroll is a consultant to CBT4CBT LLC, which makes CBT4CBT available to qualified clinical providers and organizations on a commercial basis. Dr. Carroll works with Yale University to manage any potential conflicts of interest.

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