Alexithymia and depression: a 1-year follow-up study in outpatients with major depression

J Psychosom Res. 2001 Dec;51(6):729-33. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3999(01)00257-4.


Objective: To examine the changes in alexithymic features and depressive and other psychological distress symptoms during a 1-year follow-up among patients with major depression.

Methods: The study population comprised 120 outpatients suffering from major depression. Diagnosis was made with Structured Clinical Interview (SCID-I) for DSM-III-R. The severity of depression was evaluated with the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D), and self-reported depression with the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-21). Alexithymic features were assessed with the Twenty-Item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20). Self-reported psychological distress symptoms were evaluated with the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI).

Results: Measures of depression and distress were significantly lower at the follow-up than at the baseline, while the total TAS-20 scores did not change significantly during the follow-up. A closer examination revealed that various TAS-20 factors behaved differently. Changes in Factors 1 and 2 were associated with changes in mood, whereas those in Factor 3 were not. Additionally, recovery from depression was associated with decrease in alexithymic features.

Conclusion: Difficulties in identifying and in describing feelings are associated with changes in mood, while externally oriented thinking is not.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / diagnosis*
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Inventory
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales