About this Research Topic
The term alexithymia derives from the Greek “a lexis thymos” (literally “having no words for emotions”) and was first coined by Sifneos in 1973 to describe patients struggling to express emotions; these patients seemed not only to not understand the feelings they experience, but also to lack the words to describe these feelings to others. The alexithymia construct has been extensively studied and debated, but there is now a general consensus in conceptualizing it as a dimensional personality trait characterized by difficulties in identifying, analyzing, and verbalizing feelings, restricted imaginal capacities, and limited emotional experience. Difficulties in both cognitive and affective functioning of emotion processing are at the core of alexithymia.
Alexithymia has been associated with and in some cases could be considered a risk factor, not only for various psychiatric disorders, such as depression, eating disorders, and autism, but also for medical conditions with a psychosomatic component (i.e., pain syndromes, gastroenterological and dermatological disease). Moreover, accumulating evidence highlights a link between alexithymia and primarily medical conditions (cancer, cardiological and neurological diseases). Theories linking alexithymia and physical illness involve the physiological level (e.g., the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, chronic sympathetic hyperarousal, inflammation), but also the behavioral and the cognitive levels (e.g., illness behavior, somatic amplification), although no definitive conclusion has been drawn. The difficulty, along with the clinical importance, to discriminate between primary and secondary alexithymia is one of several outstanding questions surrounding this personality construct.
From a neurobiological point of view, neuroimaging studies have tried to identify the neural correlates of alexithymia, mainly focusing on brain regions involved in emotion processing. Although alexithymia-related emotional difficulties have been associated with a decrease in limbic and paralimbic activation, (i.e., ACC, insula, amygdala, and striatum), recent reviews on the neural correlates of alexithymia highlight the variability in findings across studies.
The goal of this Research Topic is to bring together leading experts to present recent advances in alexithymia to initiate an intense discussion about the current state of the art and the open controversies regarding both the clinical and the neuroscientific evidence.
For this Research Topic we, therefore, welcome original research articles, reviews, method papers, case studies, but also opinion papers and general commentaries that have their core focus on alexithymia. Interdisciplinary studies in the fields of clinical and developmental psychology, neuroscience, and psychophysiology are welcome.
- Alexithymia and psychopathological conditions.
- Alexithymia and psychosomatics disorders.
- Alexithymia in medical conditions.
- fMRI studies on alexithymia.
- Alexithymia, personality and attachment style.
- Alexithymia, emotional regulation and affective theory of mind: links and differences.
- Alexithymia: affective and cognitive components.
- Alexithymia in childhood.
- Are self-report scales reliable tools to assess alexithymia?
- The psychological treatment of patients with alexithymia, specificity and difficulties.
Keywords: Alexithymia, Psychosomatic Conditions, Psychopathology, fMRI, Emotional Dysregulation
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