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Psychiatry Res. 2019 Jan 11;273:218-226. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2019.01.033. [Epub ahead of print]

Alexithymia predicts poorer social and everyday functioning in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Author information

1
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, New York NY, United States. Electronic address: luz.ospina@mssm.edu.
2
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, New York NY, United States; Brigham and Women's Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, Boston MA, United States.
3
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, New York NY, United States.
4
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, New York NY, United States; Brigham and Women's Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, Boston MA, United States; James J. Peters VA Medical Center, Bronx NY, United States; Harvard Medical School, Department of Psychiatry, Boston, MA, United States.

Abstract

Alexithymia, or the inability to identify and describe one's emotions, is significantly higher in bipolar disorder (BD) and schizophrenia (SZ), compared to healthy controls (HC). Alexithymia has also been observed to predict psychosocial functioning in SZ. We investigated whether alexithymia predicted social and everyday functioning in BD, as well as transdiagnostically in HC, BD, and SZ patients. 56 BD, 45 SZ, and 50 HC were administered and compared on tests measuring neurocognition, social cognition, functioning and alexithymia. We conducted linear regressions assessing whether alexithymia predicted functional outcomes in BD. Next, we conducted hierarchical stepwise linear regressions investigating the predictive ability of neurocognition, social cognition and alexithymia on everyday and social functioning in our overall sample. BD and SZ patients were comparable on most demographics and demonstrated higher alexithymia compared to HCs. In BD, alexithymia predicted social functioning only. In the overall sample, difficulty identifying and describing feelings predicted everyday functioning; difficulty describing feelings predicted social functioning. Results suggest that aspects of alexithymia significantly predict functioning among these psychiatric groups, above and beyond the contributions of previously identified factors such as neurocognition and social cognition. Results may aid in developing proper interventions aimed at improving patients' ability to articulate their feelings.

KEYWORDS:

Alexithymia; Bipolar; Functioning; Neurocognition; Schizophrenia; Social cognition

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