About this Research Topic
Coined by Peter Sifneos in the 1973, the term “alexithymia” was introduced to designate a cluster of cognitive and affective characteristics that were observed among patients with psychosomatic diseases. The alexithymia construct, formulated from clinical investigations, is multifaceted and includes several distinct characteristics: (a) difficulty in identifying and describing feelings, (b) difficulty in distinguishing feelings from the bodily sensations, (c) diminution of fantasy, and (d) concrete and poorly introspective thinking. Alexithymic individuals have affective dysregulation, the inability to self soothe and manage emotions because of a lack of awareness of emotions. Thus, the adaptive informational value of emotions that is important for emotion regulation, often eludes these individuals.
These cognitive characteristics have been attributed to an impaired capacity to elevate emotions from a sensorimotor level of experience to a representational level, where they can be used as signaling responses to internal or external events and modulated by psychological mechanisms. It has been demonstrated in several studies that often alexithymic individuals may show significantly higher levels of psychological distress than non-alexithymics and may develop “functional” somatic symptoms and psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety and depression. Moreover, it has been suggested that alexithymic subjects may scarcely respond to both pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy.
The characteristic attributes of alexithymic behavior are predominantly manifest in social interactions with high emotional significance. The affect-avoiding interpersonal pattern behavior showed by such subjects is often maladaptive and may elicit disorders and conflicts in important relationships, lastly contributing the risk of development of psychiatric symptoms such as depression or anxiety, thus increasing the risk of suicide. Moreover, it has been demonstrated that alexithymia should be considered as a relative stable personality trait, enhancing vulnerability to depressive symptoms, and is generally associated with higher risk of death for several causes (suicide, accidents, injury, or violence).
The aim of this Research Topic is to provide a comprehensive and up-to-dated overview of alexithymia, disorders of affective regulation and mind-body connection. Empirical and/or theoretical articles (e.g.,
Opinion articles, Review, Hypothesis and Theory, General Commentary) are welcome as well as interesting case reports on following topics:
- Disorders of affect regulation concerning the historical basis and the actual perspectives
- The mind-body relationships concerning the historical basis and the actual perspectives
- Psychiatric disorders as systemic diseases involving mind and body
- The neurobiological perspectives of alexithymia and disorders of affect regulation
- The psychopatological issues of alexithymia,
- The relationships of alexithymia with psychiatric, psychomatic and personality disorders,
- The impact on quality of life and treatment efficacy of alexithymia and disorders of affect regulation
- The possible management strategies of alexithymia and disorders of affect regulation
Keywords: Alexithymia, Affect Regulation, Neurobiology, Interventions, Treatment Models