Alexithymia, a multifaceted personality construct, characterised by difficulties identifying and describing one’s feelings, and by an externally focused cognitive style. Alexithymia is risk factor for negative affect and disordered eating. Previous work involving patients with anorexia nervosa revealed that high levels of alexithymia were directly linked to eating disorder symptoms and also indirectly linked via negative affect. Our aim was to establish if these findings generalised to subclinical disordered eating symptoms. A non-clinical sample of females (n=206) completed measures of depression, anxiety, alexithymia, and disordered eating. As expected, negative affect (combined depression and anxiety) mediated the effect of alexithymia (difficulty identifying feelings and difficulty describing feelings) on disordered eating symptoms (drive for thinness, bulimia, and body dissatisfaction). However, also as expected, direct effects of these alexithymia facets on disordered eating were still evident after controlling for negative mood. Our findings confirm that the relationships observed in patients with clinically diagnosed eating disorders are also evident in those with subclinical disordered eating. Targeted interventions to reduce deficits in recognising and describing one’s feelings could potentially ameliorate disordered eating in ‘at risk’ participants.
|Published - 6 Oct 2021
Bibliographical noteA PsyArXiv Preprint distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License.
- emotional awareness
- eating disorders
- emotional language