Alexithymia in people with recurrent suicide attempts: A niche area for targeted treatment


Yvonne Bergmans, Tim Guimond, Clare Lambert, Shane McInerney, Kristen O'Brien.


Background: Alexithymia, an inability to identify or describe emotions, is associated with suicidality yet the correlation with single or repeated suicide attempts is less clear. Aims: We aimed to assess the modifiability of alexithymia following a group psychosocial intervention focused on improving emotional literacy in those with a history of recurrent suicide attempts (RSA). Method: A total of 169 participants with self-reported RSA completed pre- and postgroup assessments of a 20-week group therapy intervention. Questionnaires assessed alexithymia, depression, impulsivity, and hopelessness; the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) was the primary outcome. Data were analyzed using multiple imputation. Results: Participants had on average 7.8 lifetime suicide attempts, 73% were female, and 16.6% had a >13-point reduction in TAS-20 scores after 20 weeks. Directed acyclic graph (DAG) analysis demonstrated significant relationships between alexithymia, depression, hopelessness, problem-solving, and satisfaction with life. Age of onset of suicidality was the only factor predictive of postintervention TAS-20 score in univariate linear regression. Limitations: The study limitations were its sample size, insufficient resources, and missing data. Conclusion: A change in TAS scores indicated that alexithymia can be a modifiable treatment target. Being able to identify and describe feelings may lead to improvement in depression, hopelessness, problem-solving, and satisfaction with life in this population. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved) IDÉATION TENTATIVE ÉMOTION THÉRAPIE-GROUPE

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