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Alexithymia and the Temperament and Character Model of Personality

Grabe H.J. · Spitzer C. · Freyberger H.J.
Department of Psychiatry, Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald, Klinikum der Hansestadt Stralsund, Germany Psychother Psychosom 2001;70:261–267 (DOI:10.1159/000056264)


Objective: In our study we explored the associations between alexithymia (Toronto Alexithymia Scale 20, TAS-20) and the dimensions and subscales of Cloninger’s theoretically based and empirically validated psychobiological model of personality to further clarify the relationship between alexithymia and personality traits. Methods: Psychiatric in- and outpatients (n = 254) were investigated with the TAS-20, the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI) and the Symptom Check List SCL-90-R to control for the severity of current psychopathology. Correlation and regression analyses were performed. Results: The regression analysis identified the TCI dimensions low self-directedness (SD), low reward dependence (RD) and to a minor degree harm avoidance (HA) as independent predictors for alexithymia. At the level of subscales, interpersonal detachment (RD3), low resourcefulness (SD3), low responsibility and blaming (SD1) and shyness with strangers (HA3) were predictors for alexithymia. The degree of explained variance of the TAS-20 scores by the TCI dimensions and subscales ranged between 43 and 45% whereas the inclusion of the general severity index into the regression models accounted for an additional 5% of the variance. Conclusions: Alexithymia is best explained by a mixture across different dimensions and subscales within Cloninger’s psychobiological model of personality. However, alexithymia is captured only partly by current concepts of personality, and additional contributing psychological and biological factors need to be identified to understand alexithymia more extensively.


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