Alexithymic characteristics and metabolic control in diabetic and healthy adults

Lauren Abramson, David C. McClelland, Don Brown, Stephen Kelner

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    38 Scopus citations


    Diabetes has long been identified as a disease with possible psychological components. Alexithymia-an inability to express emotions verbally, operational thinking, and a lack of fantasy life-is found in a high proportion of psychosomatic patients. We therefore tested the hypothesis that diabetics would be more alexithymic than controls. In addition, the lack of awareness of affect was hypothesized to have negative consequences for the management of diabetes, as reflected in metabolic glucose control (HbAl). The number of emotion words produced in six imaginative (Thematic Apperception Test) stories was used as the measure of alexithymia, with few words reflecting alexithymic characteristics. Diabetics were found to be significantly more alexithymic than controls. Further, fewer emotion words (alexithymia) was associated with poorer metabolic control. These data suggest that alexithymic characteristics may interfere with a diabetic’s ability to manage their illness, and support previous research showing that the suppression of emotions can lead to a difficulty in regulating glucose levels.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)490-494
    Number of pages5
    JournalJournal of Nervous and Mental Disease
    Issue number8
    StatePublished - Aug 1991

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Psychiatry and Mental health


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