Alexithymia predicts poorer social and everyday functioning in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder

L. H. Ospina, M. Shanahan, M. M. Perez-Rodriguez, C. C. Chan, R. Clari, K. E. Burdick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

Alexithymia, or the inability to identify and describe one's emotions, is significantly higher in bipolar disorder (BD) and schizophrenia (SZ), compared to healthy controls (HC). Alexithymia has also been observed to predict psychosocial functioning in SZ. We investigated whether alexithymia predicted social and everyday functioning in BD, as well as transdiagnostically in HC, BD, and SZ patients. 56 BD, 45 SZ, and 50 HC were administered and compared on tests measuring neurocognition, social cognition, functioning and alexithymia. We conducted linear regressions assessing whether alexithymia predicted functional outcomes in BD. Next, we conducted hierarchical stepwise linear regressions investigating the predictive ability of neurocognition, social cognition and alexithymia on everyday and social functioning in our overall sample. BD and SZ patients were comparable on most demographics and demonstrated higher alexithymia compared to HCs. In BD, alexithymia predicted social functioning only. In the overall sample, difficulty identifying and describing feelings predicted everyday functioning; difficulty describing feelings predicted social functioning. Results suggest that aspects of alexithymia significantly predict functioning among these psychiatric groups, above and beyond the contributions of previously identified factors such as neurocognition and social cognition. Results may aid in developing proper interventions aimed at improving patients’ ability to articulate their feelings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-226
Number of pages9
JournalPsychiatry Research
Volume273
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2019

Keywords

  • Alexithymia
  • Bipolar
  • Functioning
  • Neurocognition
  • Schizophrenia
  • Social cognition

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