Loss of self-control over drinking and the relationship of alexithymia to quality of life in alcohol-dependent patients

Fred Thorberg, Ross Young, Michael F. Lyvers, Jason P. Connor, Reidar Tyssen, Anne S Landheim, Edythe London, Gerald Feeney

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting AbstractResearchpeer-review


Aims: Up to 67% of alcohol-dependent patients in treatment have alexithymia, a personality trait associated with emotion regulation difficulties. Alexithymia has been investigated in relation to quality of life (QoL) among male alcohol-dependent patients, but no study has explored gender differences or underlying mechanisms that link alexithymia with QoL. The objective of the present study, therefore, was to address these questions and to examine the extent to which obsessive thoughts about alcohol use and compulsive behaviors mediate the relationship between alexithymia and QoL.

Methods: 396 patients 18-71 years of age, undertaking outpatient Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy for alcohol dependence were recruited. Participants were detoxified prior to assessment, and completed the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20), the Obsessive Compulsive Drinking Scale (OCDS) and the Health Survey (SF-36).

Results: TAS-20 total score, Difficulties Identifying Feelings (DIF) and Difficulties Describing Feelings (DDF) were more strongly correlated with parameters of QoL for males than for female participants. Path analyses showed that for males OCDS scores fully mediated the relationship of DIF with physical QoL and partially mediated the relationship with emotional QoL. For females OCDS scores partially mediated the relationships of DIF with emotional as well as physical QoL.

Conclusions: Loss of control over drinking appears to be a mediator of the link between alexithymia and QoL, and the neural circuitry that mediates self control may be a treatment target in alcohol-dependent treatment seekers with alexithymia.

Financial support: Innlandet Hospital Trust.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e4
Number of pages1
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


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