Alexithymia, attachment security and negative mood

Michael Lyvers*, Natasha Ryan, Fred Arne Thorberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Alexithymia, a trait dimension defined by difficulties identifying and describing feelings and an externally oriented thinking style, is often associated with negative moods such as depression, anxiety and stress as well as an insecure adult attachment style. The present study evaluated the hypothesis that the link between alexithymia and negative moods is mediated by insecure attachment, which implies a lack of social resources for coping with distress. 

Method: A nonclinical online community sample of 206 male and female young adults recruited from throughout Australia completed validated measures of alexithymia, attachment security and negative moods. 

Results: In a hierarchical regression model with demographic variables and socially desirable responding at step 1, alexithymia at step 2 and insecure attachment at step 3, the final model accounted for 62.4% of variance in negative moods, with alexithymia and insecure attachment as significant predictors. Bootstrapped mediation modelling, controlling for demographic variables and socially desirable responding, indicated partial mediation of the association between alexithymia and negative moods by insecure attachment. 

Conclusions: Results point to the role of insecure attachment in the negative moods often associated with alexithymia, presumably in addition to the deficient emotional self-regulation associated with alexithymia. 

KEY POINTS: What is already known about this topic: Alexithymia is associated with negative moods and maladaptive coping. Alexithymia is associated with insecure adult attachment styles. Alexithymia is associated with loneliness and interpersonal difficulties.What this topic adds: Insecure attachment mediated the association of alexithymia with negative moods. This suggests the role of insecure attachment in negative moods associated with alexithymia. Therapy for alexithymic clients may thus benefit from targeting insecure attachment, but replication is needed in clinical samples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-94
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian Psychologist
Volume57
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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