Substance abusers report being more alexithymic than others but do not show emotional processing deficits on a performance measure of alexithymia

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Substance abusers report that they have deficits in emotional processing (“alexithymia”; Taylor et al. ), but is their actual emotional processing performance actually deficient? The prevalence of self-reported alexithymia in a group of newly abstinent substance abusers (N = 40) was 50%, which is considerably higher than that found in normal and psychiatric outpatient samples. However, the actual performance of this group on a task that required them to identify and describe feelings was not significantly different from either a group of university students (after controlling for IQ, age, and gender) or a normal group of adults. In addition, there was no relationship between self-reported and actual emotional processing performance, which is contrary to what has been found in a normal sample. Substance abusers believe they are more alexithymic than others, but do not perform as if they are so.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Journal Article

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