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Self-compassion in Relation to Alexithymia, Empathy, and Negative Mood in Young Adults



Alexithymia, a trait defined by difficulties identifying and describing emotional feelings and overly concrete thinking, is a known risk factor for psychopathology. Given recent evidence that therapeutic constructs based on Buddhist concepts are positively related to emotional self-awareness and mental health, the present study examined the relationship between one such construct, self-compassion, and alexithymia as well as empathy and mood in a sample of young Australian adults.


Participants were 253 young adults aged 18–30 years who were recruited from two Australian universities. They were administered validated measures of alexithymia, self-compassion, and empathy via a survey-hosting website.


Relationships among variables were as expected: alexithymia was negatively correlated with self-compassion and empathy, and the latter two variables were positively correlated with each other. After controlling for relevant covariates, alexithymia was the strongest (negative) predictor of self-compassion in a hierarchical regression model. Both alexithymia and self-compassion explained variance in negative mood (depression, anxiety, stress) in a second regression. Of the six subcomponents of self-compassion, only self-judgement was significant.


Further research is needed on alexithymia as a risk factor in young adults and the potential role of self-compassion in mitigating such risk.

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Authors and Affiliations



ML designed and executed the study, conducted data analyses, and wrote the manuscript. AR assisted with the design of the study, collected the data, and assisted with the data analyses and writing. FT collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Michael Lyvers.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethics Approval

This research was approved by the Bond University Human Research Ethics Committee and the Griffith University Human Research Ethics Committee. The research was performed in accordance with the ethical standards as laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Lyvers, M., Randhawa, A. & Thorberg, F.A. Self-compassion in Relation to Alexithymia, Empathy, and Negative Mood in Young Adults. Mindfulness 11, 1655–1665 (2020).

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  • Self-compassion
  • Alexithymia
  • Empathy
  • Self-regulation
  • Mindfulness