[Alexithymia in negative symptom and non-negative symptom schizophrenia].Encephale. 1997 Sep-Oct; 23(5):358-63.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 emotion. Accordingly, some disturbances of alexithymia's scores would be expected in schizophrenic patients. The purpose of this study was to estimate and compare the prevalence of alexithymia in deficit and non-deficit schizophrenia. The term "deficit symptoms" may be used as Carpenter, to refer specifically to those negative symptoms that are not considered secondary. The influence of patients' symptoms has also been studied on alexithymia scores: negative and positive symptoms of schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, anhedonia and effects of neuroleptics. Twenty-five 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 have been categorized into deficit (n = 12) and non-deficit (n = 13) subgroups by one trained psychiatrist (SD), using the Schedule for the Deficit Syndrome. The subjects have been assessed by the same rater (IN), blind to deficit status, using six rating scales: Beth Israel Questionnaire (BIQ) and Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS) for alexithymia, Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS), Montgomery and Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), revised Physical Anhedonia Scale (PAS), and finally, Extrapyramidal Symptom Rating Scale (ESRS). Using TAS, alexithymic characteristics were more prevalent in the deficit subgroup as compared to non-deficit subgroup (83% versus 30.76%; p < 0.01). Significant correlations were observed in the non-deficit subgroup between: TAS and anxiety (r = 0.743; p < 0.01), TAS and depression (r = 0.568; p < 0.05), BIQ and blunted affect (r = 0.636; p < 0.02), BIQ and poverty of speech (r = 0.629; p < 0.02). These correlations were not significant in the deficit group of patients. Alexithymia in schizophrenic patients seems to be a trait characteristic in deficit patients, and a state related to many symptoms, such as flattening of affect, poverty of speech, depression and anxiety in nondeficit patients.