Alexithymia in Depressive, Anxiety, Somatoform, and Psychotic Disorders: A Comparative Study
OBJECTIVE Little is known about the characteristic differences in alexithymic construct in various psychiatric disorders because of a paucity of direct comparisons between psychiatric disorders. Therefore, this study explored disorder-related differences in alexithymic characteristics among Korean patients diagnosed with four major psychiatric disorders (n=388). METHODS Alexithymic tendencies, as measured by the Korean version of the 20-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20K), of patients classified into four groups according to major psychiatric diagnosis were compared. The groups consisted of patients with depressive disorders (DP; n=125), somatoform disorders (SM; n=78), anxiety disorders (AX; n=117), and psychotic disorders (PS; n=68). RESULTS We found that substantial portions of patients in all groups were classified as having alexithymia and no statistical intergroup differences emerged (42.4%, 35.9%, 35.3%, and 33.3% for DP, SM, PS, and AX). However, patients with DP obtained higher scores in factor 2 (difficulties describing feelings) than those with SM or AX, after adjusting for demographic variables. CONCLUSION These findings suggest that alexithymia might be associated with a higher vulnerability to depressive disorders and factor 2 of TAS-20K could be a discriminating feature of depressive disorders.