Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine

, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 299–310

Repressive coping and alexithymia in idiopathic environmental intolerance

  • Sine Skovbjerg
  • Robert Zachariae
  • Alice Rasmussen
  • Jeanne Duus Johansen
  • Jesper Elberling
Regular Article

DOI: 10.1007/s12199-010-0143-4

Cite this article as:
Skovbjerg, S., Zachariae, R., Rasmussen, A. et al. Environ Health Prev Med (2010) 15: 299. doi:10.1007/s12199-010-0143-4



To examine if the non-expression of negative emotions (i.e., repressive coping) and differences in the ability to process and regulate emotions (i.e., alexithymia) is associated with idiopathic environmental intolerance (IEI).


The study included participants who had previously participated in a general population-based study and reported symptoms of environmental intolerance (n = 787) and patients with IEI (n = 237). The participants completed questionnaires assessing IEI, namely, a measure of repressive coping combining scores on the Marlowe–Crowne Social Desirability Scale (MCSDS) and the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale (TMAS), the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20), and a negative affectivity scale (NAS). Multiple, hierarchical linear regression analyses were conducted using IEI variables as the dependent variables.


The TMAS and MCSDS scores were independently associated with the IEI variables, but there was no evidence of a role of the repressive coping construct. While the total alexithymia score was unrelated to IEI, the TAS-20 subscale of difficulties identifying feelings (DIF) was independently associated with symptoms attributed to IEI. Negative affectivity was a strong independent predictor of the IEI variables and a mediator of the association between DIF and IEI.


Our results provide no evidence for a role of repressive coping in IEI, and our hypothesis of an association with alexithymia was only partly supported. In contrast, strong associations between IEI and negative emotional reactions, defensiveness and difficulties identifying feelings were found, suggesting a need for exploring the influence of these emotional reactions in IEI.


Alexithymia Chemical sensitivity Functional somatic syndromes Negative affectivity Repressive coping Stress 



Chemical Hypersensitivity Scale


CNS Symptom Scale


Consequences for Social Activities Scale


The Chemical Sensitivity Scale for Sensory Hyper-reactivity


Difficulties identifying feelings


Difficulties describing feelings


Externally oriented thinking


Idiopathic environmental intolerance


Marlowe–Crowne Social Desirability Scale


Mucosal Symptom Scale


Negative Affectivity Scale


The Toronto Alexithymia Scale


The Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale

Copyright information

© The Japanese Society for Hygiene 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sine Skovbjerg
    • 1
  • Robert Zachariae
    • 2
  • Alice Rasmussen
    • 3
  • Jeanne Duus Johansen
    • 4
  • Jesper Elberling
    • 1
  1. 1.The Danish Research Centre for Chemical Sensitivities, Department of Dermato-Allergology, Gentofte HospitalUniversity of CopenhagenGentofteDenmark
  2. 2.Psychooncology Research UnitAarhus University HospitalAarhusDenmark
  3. 3.Psychiatric Centre, Bispebjerg HospitalUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  4. 4.The National Allergy Research Centre, Department of Dermato-Allergology, Gentofte HospitalUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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