Alexithymia in patients with substance use disorders: State or trait?
Number of pages
SourcePsychiatry Research, 216, 1, (2014), pp. 137-145
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI KLP
SubjectExperimental Psychopathology and Treatment
Previous research on substance use disorders (SUD) has yielded conflicting results concerning whether alexithymia is a state or trait, raising the question of how alexithymia should be addressed in the treatment of SUD-patients. The absolute and relative stabilities of alexithymia were assessed using the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) and its subscales. In total, 101 patients with SUD were assessed twice during a 3-week inpatient detoxification period while controlling for withdrawal symptoms and personality disorder traits. The relative stability of the total TAS-20 and subscales was moderate to high but showed remarkable differences between baseline low, moderate, and high alexithymic patients. A small reduction in the mean levels of the total TAS-20 scores and those of one subscale revealed the absence of absolute stability. The levels of alexithymia were unrelated to changes in withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety- and depression-like symptoms. The differences between low, moderate, and high alexithymic patients in terms of the change in alexithymia scores between baseline and follow-up indicated a strong regression to the mean. The findings suggest that alexithymia in SUD patients as measured using the TAS-20 is both a state and trait phenomenon and does not appear to be related to changes in anxiety- and depression-like symptoms.
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