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The Relationship between Dimensions of Alexithymia and Dissociation

Grabe H.-J.a · Rainermann S.b · Spitzer C.a · Gänsicke M.a · Freyberger H.J.a
aDepartment of Psychiatry, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-University of Greifswald, Klinikum der Hansestadt Stralsund, bDepartment of Psychiatry, Friedrich-Wilhelms-University of Bonn, Germany Psychother Psychosom 2000;69:128–131 (DOI:10.1159/000012380)


Background: The study investigated the following hypotheses: (1) Alexithymia is significantly associated with dissociation. (2) Pathological versus nonpathological dissociation is associated with alexithymic traits. Methods: Psychiatric in- and outpatients (n = 173) and nonclinical subjects (n = 38) were investigated with the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20), the FDS (German version of Dissociation Experience Scale) and the Symptom Check List (SCL-90-R; GSI). Correlation analyses followed by MANOVA and logistic regression were performed. Results: Significant correlations and partial correlations, controlling for GSI, were observed between dissociation and alexithymia. The MANOVA demonstrated significantly higher scores for the two TAS-20 dimensions ‘difficulty identifying feelings’ and ‘difficulty expressing feelings’ in the group with pathological dissociation. On the basis of the TAS-20 subscores, logistic regression analysis correctly classified 72.5% of the cases into the pathological and the nonpathological dissociation group. Conclusions: These results support our hypothesis that pathological traits of dissociation are highly associated with alexithymia. A model is discussed in which alexithymic characteristics may contribute to the development of pathological dissociation and stress-related disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder.

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