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Psychiatry Res. 2011 Nov 30;190(1):37-42. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2010.07.046. Epub 2010 Aug 25.

Alexithymia in personality disorders: correlations with symptoms and interpersonal functioning.

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SPC Training School of Cognitive Therapy, Terzocentro Psicoterapia Cognitiva, Rome, Italy.


Impairment in the ability to recognize and make sense of emotions has been hypothesized to be present in a sub-sample of people suffering from personality disorder (PD). In particular it is possible that difficulty recognizing and expressing feelings, or alexithymia, is related to many of the symptoms and problems in making sense of social interactions which are hallmarks of PD. In this study we measured levels of alexithymia with the Toronto Alexithymia Scale-20 and explored its correlations with the overall presence of PD and different PD diagnoses, symptoms, and interpersonal difficulties. Results were largely consistent with the hypothesis. Higher levels of alexithymia were related to high levels of global psychopathology and with dysfunctional representation of interpersonal relations. A sub-sample of patients, mostly suffering from avoidant, dependent, passive-aggressive and depressive PD, had alexithymic features and, in particular reported difficulties describing their feelings to others. A patient with cluster B PD featured no alexithymia. Implications of this study for future research and treatment are discussed.

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