A longitudinal mediational study of the stability of alexithymia among alcohol-dependent outpatients in cognitive-behavioural therapy

Thorberg, Fred, Young, Ross McD., Sullivan, Karen A., Lyvers, Michael, Hurst, Cameron P., Connor, Jason P., Tyssen, Reidar, London, Edythe D., Noble, Ernest P., & Feeney, Gerald F.X. (2016) A longitudinal mediational study of the stability of alexithymia among alcohol-dependent outpatients in cognitive-behavioural therapy. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 30(1), pp. 64-72.

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Alexithymia is characterized by difficulty identifying feelings, difficulty describing feelings, and an externally oriented thinking style. Alexithymia has been described as a trait-like risk factor for the development of alcohol use disorders. Few studies have investigated the absolute (whether mean scores change over time) and relative (extent to which relative differences among individuals remain the same over time) stability of alexithymia among men and women with alcohol dependence, or have considered potential underlying mechanisms. Social learning processes contribute to and maintain alcohol problems. The reinforcement of alcohol expectancies is one plausible mechanism that links the difficulties in emotional processing associated with alexithymia and alcohol use. The present study investigated the stability of alexithymia as well as alcohol expectancy as a mediator of alexithymia. Three hundred fifty-five alcohol-dependent patients were enrolled in a cognitive behavioral treatment program. Ninety-two alcohol-dependent patients completed assessments at baseline and at 3-month follow-up. Results indicated that total Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20; Bagby, Parker, & Taylor, 1994) mean score, difficulty identifying feelings, and difficulty describing feelings decreased significantly over time with a larger decrease in alexithymia mean scores for females. Externally oriented thinking mean scores did not change. The TAS-20 and its subfactors demonstrated significant correlations, from baseline to follow-up, which were stronger for males than for females. Regression analyses showed that the total TAS-20 mean scores, difficulty identifying feelings, and difficulty describing feelings were partially mediated through assertion alcohol expectancies. In conclusion, this suggests that alexithymia has relative stability and is a trait-like factor among alcohol-dependent treatment seekers.

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ID Code: 97660
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Alexithymia, Stability, Mediation, Alcohol expectancies, Alcohol dependence
DOI: 10.1037/adb0000135
ISSN: 0893-164X
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Copyright Owner: 2016 American Psychological Association
Deposited On: 27 Jul 2016 01:58
Last Modified: 27 Jul 2016 23:57

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