Alexithymia in relation to frontal lobe functioning, emotional intelligence, parental alcoholism and alcohol consumption in a non-clinical sample

Michael Lyvers, Roy Onuoha, Fred Arne Thorberg

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting AbstractResearchpeer-review


Background: Recent studies have indicated that 45-67% of alcoholics in treatment suffer from alexithymia, a multifaceted personality trait characterized by difficulties identifying and describing emotions, lack of imagination and an externally oriented cognitive style (see Thorberg et al., 2009). The high reported prevalence rates of alexithymia among alcoholics led to speculation that alexithymia is a personality dimension that strongly predisposes to problematic alcohol use. Methods: This notion was examined in 429 adults (52.9% female) aged 18-45 years (M = 27.73 years) who completed online surveys assessing alexithymia (Toronto Alexithymia Scale, or TAS-20), problematic alcohol use (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, or AUDIT), parental alcoholism (Children of Alcoholics Screening Test, or CAST), everyday frontal lobe related functioning (Frontal Systems Behavior Scale, or FrSBe), and Emotional Intelligence (Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire, or TEIQ). Results: Alexithymia as defined by TAS-20 in this non-clinical sample was associated with problematic drinking, parental alcoholism, evidence of frontal lobe dysfunction, and low emotional intelligence. TAS-20 scores were significantly positively correlated with the index of frontal lobe dysfunction FrSBe (r = .50, p < .01) as well as the index of alcohol-related problems AUDIT (r = .13, p < .05) and the measure of parental alcoholism CAST (r = .17, p < .05). TAS-20 scores were significantly negatively correlated with the measure of emotional intelligence TEIQ (r = -.74, p < .01). Conclusions: The findings suggest that alexithymia is related to deficiencies in frontal lobe functioning and emotional processing that may reflect a heritable predisposition to alcohol problems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189S-189S
Number of pages1
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number9 Supplementary
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2011
EventAnnual Meeting of the Society of Biological Psychiatry: Paradigm shifts in the treatment of psychiatric disorders: Past lessons, current trends, future possibilities - Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, United States
Duration: 12 May 201113 May 2011
Conference number: 66th


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