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Minerva Ortopedica e Traumatologica 2018 September;69(3 Suppl 1):1-6

DOI: 10.23736/S0394-3410.17.03855-3


lingua: Inglese

Psychophysiological features in athletes with different levels of alexithymia


Institute of Sports, Tourism, and Service, South Ural State University, Chelyabinsk, Russia


BACKGROUND: The correlation between physical health and mental state has always been an object of interest for Russian and foreign clinicians. Disturbed emotional and cognitive sphere is known to cause psychosomatic disorders. The phenomenon of alexithymia as a complex of affective functions and cognitive processes is still underexplored in the context of sports. The objective of our research was to study psychophysiological features in athletes with different levels of observed alexithymia.
METHODS: The research involved 129 athletes (17-24-year-old) who were divided into 3 groups based on the Toronto Alexithymia Scale: I - 35 people with high level of alexithymia, II - 45 people with moderate level, and III - 49 people “with no observed alexithymia”. Psychological testing involved the Spielberger Inventory, the Beck Depression Inventory, the Rehan’s questionnaire, and the Giessen Complaint List. Electroencephalography was applied to analyze the bioelectric activity of the brain.
RESULTS: High levels of personal and reactive anxiety, depression, motivation for failure, and high complaint score were observed in athletes with high level of alexithymia more often than in “non-alexithymic” athletes. Along with that, the athletes with alexithymia, in comparison with the non-alexithymic participants, had higher levels of personal anxiety (48.3±1.3 and 36.7±0.9 points, respectively), reactive anxiety (44.3±1.4 and 35.9±0.8 points, respectively), depression (9.9±1.1 and 4.0±0.5 points, respectively), somatic complaints (26.2±2.0 and 18.5±1.3 points, respectively), and a lower level of motivation (12.5±0.4 and 15.5±0.3 points, respectively). The analysis revealed significant correlations between alexithymia and: reactive anxiety (r=0.44; P<0.001), personal anxiety (r=0.53; P<0.001), depression (r=0.45; P<0.001), motivation (r=-0.51; P<0.001), and somatic complaints (r=0.27; P<0.01). The athletes’ mental health tended to deteriorate at a moderate level of alexithymia. The athletes with alexithymia had a higher percent of borderline electroencephalograms (65.7%) as compared to the non-alexithymic athletes (32.6%).
CONCLUSIONS: The results suggest that athletes with expressed alexithymia tend to be more anxious, depressive, and asthenic and have low self-esteem. High levels of alexithymia in athletes is an adverse factor affecting the functional status of the brain.

KEY WORDS: Athletes - Affective symptoms - Psychophysiologic disorders

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