Alexithymia, Negative Emotions, and Sexual Behavior in Heterosexual University Students from Italy
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Alexithymia is a construct which denotes thought characterized by pragmatic content, an inability to recognize and verbally express emotion, a difficulty in distinguishing between feelings and bodily sensations, and a limitation in fantasy life. Research has revealed a role for alexithymia in different kinds of sexual dysfunctions; it was also associated with reduced frequency of penile-vaginal intercourse but not with sexual behaviors—like masturbation—which do not include an emotional interaction in normal individuals. The aim of this research was to further investigate the association between alexithymia scores and sexual behavior in a sample of normal individuals, taking into account the role of gender differences and the possible effect of negative emotions (depression, anxiety, and anger). Participants were 300 university students (142 men and 158 women); sexual behavior was measured by the Sex and the Average Woman (or Man) Scale while alexithymia was measured with the Toronto Alexithymia Scale. The findings of the study showed that higher alexithymia scores were associated with lower levels of sexual satisfaction and higher levels of sexual detachment for females, and with sexual shyness and sexual nervousness for both genders. Results also suggested that the correlations between alexithymia scores and sexual behavior are partially influenced by the effect of negative emotions. Overall, it seems that the same detachment which denotes the alexithymic interpersonal style also characterizes sexual behavior.