[Alexithymia, health and psychopathology].Encephale. 2000 May-Jun; 26(3):61-8.E
The term "alexithymia" is derived from the Greek and means "no words for feeling". Coined by Sifneos in 1972, alexithymia refers to a relative narrowing in emotional functioning. The salient clinical features of alexithymia include difficulties in recognizing and verbalizing feelings, endless description of physical symptoms instead of émotions, concrete speech and thought closely tied to external events, paucity of fantasy life. Although initially described in the context of psychosomatic illness, alexithymic characteristics may be observed in patients with a wide range of medical and psychiatric disorders. This study purpose to investigate the relationship between alexithymia and concepts of health's psychology: locus of control, family's cohesion and adaptability, personality's concepts,... Three groups of patients were established on base of their diagnosis: depression (n = 16), alcoholism (n = 16) and control group (n = 16). The following measures were administered: family's cohesion and adaptability (Olson), Multidimensional Health Locus of Control (Wallston and Wallston), externality scale (Rotter), Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. The results show alexithymic personality is less internal (t = 2.72; p = 0.011) than non-alexithymic subject (m = 20.88 +/- 6.19 vs m = 26.06 +/- 4.52). Furthermore the family's cohesion is lower (t = 2.961; p = 0.008) for the alexithymics than the non-alexithymics (m = 30.46 +/- 10.38 vs m = 40.27 +/- 5.44). This conclusions added to the more pathological personality's profile (11 scales on 14 were significant higher for for alexithymics) of alexithymics at the MMPI indicate alexithymia's concept is central in psychopathology if measures used are issued by the health's psychology.