Emotion regulation difficulties in alexithymia and mental health


  • Rakesh Pandey
  • Prachi Saxena
  • Akanksha Dubey


Alexithymia, characterized by difficulty in identifying and describing feelings and a deficit in the cognitive modulation of emotions, has been linked with health related problems. Indirect empirical evidences suggest the possibility that alexithymia may potentially also relate with emotion regulation difficulties. However, the exact nature of the relationship between the two constructs has not been fully explored. The relationship between the two constructs may reflect the overlap of the content domains or dependence of one (e.g., emotion regulation difficulties) on the other (e.g., alexithymia). Given the link between the two constructs, it is also likely that alexithymics’ health related difficulties may result from their impaired ability to regulate emotions. The present study tested the above theoretical propositions on 27 alexithymic and 26 non-alexithymic participants who were assessed on self-report measures of emotion regulation difficulties and general mental health. The findings revealed that compared to non-alexithymics, the alexithymics showed greater emotion regulation difficulties and such affective difficulties differentiated the two groups with a very high accuracy. Further, the observation of two orthogonal components (emotion regulation difficulties and alexithymia) with a minimum overlap suggests that these constructs represent two independent domains of behavior. Findings also revealed that alexithymics reported more health related problems as compared to non-alexithymics and the health problems of alexithymics are likely to be an outcome of their emotion regulation difficulties (indicated by a non-significant health difference after controlling for emotion regulation difficulties). The findings imply that alexithymia is associated with emotion regulation difficulties and such difficulties largely contribute to health related problems.