Alexithymia in Adolescents With and Without Chronic Pain

Rachel V. Aaron, Emma A. Fisher, Tonya M. Palermo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose/Objective: Alexithymia refers to reduced emotional awareness and is associated with higher levels of burden and disability in adults with chronic pain. Limited research has examined alexithymia in adolescents with chronic pain. The current study aimed to (a) determine whether alexithymia was higher in adolescents with (vs. without) chronic pain and (b) examine the relationship between alexithymia and pain experiences in youth. Research Method/Design: We assessed alexithymia in 22 adolescents with chronic pain and in 22 adolescents without chronic pain (otherwise healthy), and its relation to pain experiences (i.e., self-reported pain intensity, pain bothersomeness, and pain interference), while controlling for the concomitant effects of psychological distress (i.e., depressive and anxiety symptoms). Results: After controlling for psychological distress, adolescents with versus without chronic pain had higher total alexithymia scores (p = .042; η2 = .10), and specifically, greater difficulty identifying feelings (p = .001; η2 = .23). Difficulty identifying feelings was related to worse pain interference (r = .55; p = .015) and pain bothersomeness (r = .55; p = .015). Conclusions/Implications: These preliminary findings suggest that adolescents with chronic pain may have greater difficulty identifying their emotions, and that this might be related to increased pain interference and pain bothersomeness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalRehabilitation Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2019


  • Alexithymia
  • Chronic pain
  • Psychological distress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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