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Minerva Psichiatrica 2010 December;51(4):299-315

language: Italian

Alexithymia: phisiopathology, etiology and management

Mori E., Drago A., De Ronchi D., Serretti A.

Istituto di Psichiatria, Università degli Studi di Bologna, Bologna, Italia


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In recent decades, the construct of alexithymia was progressively validated, outlining its value as an operational term, making it a suitable subject for systematic research in psychiatry. Epidemiological studies found a high prevalence of this dimension in clinical populations and healthy subjects, expanding the knowledge about the potential neurobiological and psychological factors that determine alexithymia. This increasing knowledge raised questions as whether alexithymia may impact the psychophysical well-being of subjects. In the present article we undertake a review of the literature dedicated to the concept of alexithymia, highlighting the implications of this construct towards the quality of life of psychiatric patients, the association with other diseases and the response to pharmacological and psychotherapeutic treatments. The literature research was conducted electronically through PUBMED, using key words including “alexithymia” and “epidemiology” or “neurobiology” or “attachment” or “psychosomatic medicine” or “treatment” or “psychotherapy”, alone or in combination. The bibliographies of the single articles were manually searched to complete the review. Alexithymia affects the psychological well-being of patients influencing negative habits, the size of personal social network, health behaviors, the pattern of use of health services and the response to drug treatments and psychotherapy. However, despite the clinical implications and its high prevalence, there is no definitive consensus as to treat alexithymia. It would be relevant to expand knowledge about the mechanisms that underline alexithymia and to understand the how it impacts the psychiatric phenotypes in order to develop more effective treatments for this condition, as to limit the negative consequences it could bear in the general population.

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