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Alexithymia in Chronic Pain Disorders

Abstract

This review proposes a critical discussion of the recent studies investigating the presence of alexithymia in patients suffering from different chronic pain (CP) conditions. The term CP refers to pain that persists or progresses over time, while alexithymia is an affective dysregulation, largely observed in psychosomatic diseases. Overall, the examined studies showed a high prevalence of alexithymia, especially difficulties in identifying feelings, in all the different CP conditions considered. However, the association between alexithymia and pain intensity was not always clear and in some studies this relationship appeared to be mediated by negative effect, especially depression. The role of alexithymia in CP should be clarified by future studies, paying particular attention to two aspects: the use of additional measures, in addition to the Toronto Alexithymia Scale, to assess alexithymia, and the analysis of the potential differences in the evolution of different CP conditions with reference to the presence or absence of alexithymia.

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Acknowledgments

Lorys Castelli was supported by University of Turin grants (“Ricerca scientifica finanziata dall’Università” Linea Giovani; http://www.unito.it) and CRT Foundation project “Componenti psicologiche e psicosomatiche nella sindrome fibromialgica”. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Lorys Castelli.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Chronic Pain

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Di Tella, M., Castelli, L. Alexithymia in Chronic Pain Disorders. Curr Rheumatol Rep 18, 41 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11926-016-0592-x

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Keywords

  • Chronic pain
  • Alexithymia
  • Emotional processing
  • Psychological distress