[Negative symptoms, depression, anxiety and alexithymia in DSM III-R schizophrenic patients].Encephale. 1997 Jul-Aug; 23(4):267-72.E
Coined by Sifneos in 1972, alexithymia refers to a relative narrowing in emotional functioning, an inability to find appropriate words to describe their emotions, and a poverty 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: Parkinson disease, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and eating disorders. Flattening of affect and poverty of speech, major negative symptoms, referred to chronic schizophrenia: there is a lack of outward display of emotions. Accordingly, some disturbances of alexithymia's scores would be expected in schizophrenic patients. The aims of this study were: first to establish some correlations between alexithymia and some symptoms of schizophrenia, and second to estimate the intensity of alexithymia in negative versus positive and undifferentiated schizophrenic patients. Twenty-nine patients, meeting DSM III-R criteria for schizophrenia have been studied. All of them treated by neuroleptics, were in a stable clinical status for at least one month. The patients were assessed by one trained psychiatrist (IN) using six rating scales: Beth Israel Questionnaire (BIQ) for alexithymia, Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS), Depressive Retardation Rating Scale (DRRS), Montgomery and Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), revised Physical Anhedonia Scale (PAS), and finally, Extrapyramidal Symptom Rating Scale (ESRS). In the total sample, the mean score of BIQ was 4.79 +/- 1.68 (mean +/- SD). Significant correlations were found between alexithymia and blunted affect (r = 0.376; p < 0.05), poverty of speech (r = 0.471; p < 0.01), anxiety (r = 0.370; p < 0.05), total score of DRRS (r = 0.370; p < 0.05), and motor subscore of DRRS (r = 0.429; p < 0.05). The patients with negative symptoms of schizophrenia had significantly higher total scores in alexithymia (p < 0.05), blunted affect (p < 0.0001), poverty of speech (p < 0.0001), anxiety (p < 0.05), total score of DRRS (p = 0.01) and his motor subscore (p < 0.0001) as compared to positive and undifferentiated subtypes. In our study, alexithymia seems to be correlated with negative and depressive symptoms in negative forms of schizophrenia, regardless of medication status.