Author(s): Waller E, Scheidt CE
OBJECTIVE: To determine the role of undifferentiated and dysregulated affects in somatoform disorders by using a multimethod assessment approach of alexithymia.
METHODS: Forty patients with ICD-10 somatoform disorders (SoD) and 20 healthy controls, matched for age, education and sex, were included in the study. Alexithymia was assessed using the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20), the Affect Consciousness Interview (ACI), and the Levels of Emotional Awareness Scale (LEAS). All classifications were made blinded with regard to clinical status.
RESULTS: Scores of the ACI and the TAS-20 showed that alexithymia is higher in SoD than in healthy controls. No differences were found on the LEAS. In terms of the multidimensionality of the alexithymia construct, our results indicate a specific positive association between SoD and a proneness to experience undifferentiated affects. The three subfactors of the TAS-20 were differentially related to non-self-report measures of alexithymia and to negative affectivity (NA). Only the cognitive facet of the TAS-20 (externally oriented thinking [EOT]) was related to the LEAS and the ACI. In contrast, the affective facets of the TAS-20-difficulties identifying feelings (DIF) and difficulties describing feelings (DDF)-were substantially related to NA.
CONCLUSION: The findings highlight the important role of impaired affect regulation and NA in the process of somatization.