Alexithymia disrupts emotion regulation processes and is associated with greater negative affect and alcohol problems

Braden K. Linn, Junru Zhao, Clara M. Bradizza, Joseph F. Lucke, Melanie U. Ruszczyk, Paul R. Stasiewicz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective: Alexithymia is common among people who abuse alcohol, yet the mechanisms by which alexithymia exerts its influence remain unclear. This analysis tested a model whereby the three subscales of the Toronto Alexithymia Scale exert an indirect effect on alcohol problems through difficulties with emotion regulation and psychological distress. Method: Men and women (n = 141) seeking alcohol use disorder (AUD) treatment completed the Toronto Alexithymia Scale, the Difficulties with Emotion Regulation Scale, the Brief Symptom Inventory, the Short Inventory of Problems, and the Alcohol Dependence Scale. Results: The Difficulty Identifying Feelings subscale of the Toronto Alexithymia Scale was positively associated with alcohol problems through emotion dysregulation and psychological distress. The other two subscales, Difficulty Describing Feelings and Externally oriented Thinking, were not associated with any other variables. Conclusion: People with alexithymia may consume alcohol to help regulate undifferentiated states of emotional arousal. Given the prevalence of alexithymia among people who abuse alcohol, treatment supplements that enhance the identification of emotions are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2915-2928
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of clinical psychology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology

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