Monday, March 07, 2011

Variations of Alexithymia and Emotional Regulation

A group of Chinese researchers has created a more comprehensive view of alexithymia (often described as "no words for feeling”), identifying four distinct types of alexithymia partly based on an introversion/extroversion model. This can add to our understanding of how this works, which is always useful in knowing how to work with it in clients.

Here is the broader definition of alexithymia they use in the paper:
Now its definition is more explicitly refined with five dominant features: (1) difficulty in identifying one’s emotion; (2) difficulty in describing self feelings verbally;(3) a reduction or incapability to experience emotions;(4) an absence of tendencies to image one else’s emotion, or an externally oriented cognitive style; and (5) poor capacity for fantasize or symbolic thought [2].
From BMC Psychiatry, an open access paper.

Alexithymia and emotional regulation: A cluster analytical approach

Jie Chen email, Ting Xu email, Jin Jing email and Raymond CK Chan email

BMC Psychiatry 2011, 11:33. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-11-33

Published: 23 February 2011

Abstract (provisional)


Alexithymia has been a familiar conception of psychosomatic phenomenon. The aim of this study was to investigate whether there were subtypes of alexithymia associating with different traits of emotional expression and regulation among a group of healthy college students.


1788 healthy college students were administered with the Chinese version of the 20-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) and another set of questionnaires assessing emotion status and regulation. A hierarchical cluster analysis was conducted on the three factor scores of the TAS-20. The cluster solution was cross-validated by the corresponding emotional regulation.


The results indicated there were four subtypes of alexithymia, namely extrovert-high alexithymia (EHA), general-high alexithymia (GHA), introvert-high alexithymia (IHA) and non-alexithymia (NA). The GHA was characterized by general high scores on all three factors, the IHA was characterized by high scores on difficulty identifying feelings and difficulty describing feelings but low score on externally oriented cognitive style of thinking, the EHA was characterized by high score on externally oriented cognitive style of thinking but normal score on the others, and the NA got low score on all factors. The GHA and IHA were dominant by suppressive character of emotional regulation and expression with worse emotion status as compared to the EHA and NA.


The current findings suggest there were four subtypes of alexithymia characterized by different emotional regulation manifestations.

You can read the pdf online, or download it.

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