Depressive personality dimensions and alexithymia in eating disorders

Psychiatry Res. 2005 Jun 15;135(2):153-63. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2005.04.001.


An association has been reported between high levels of alexithymia and depression in patients with eating disorders. This study has examined alexithymic features and depressive experiences in patients with DSM-IV eating disorder (restricting anorexia, n=105; purging anorexia, n=49; bulimia, n=98) and matched controls (n=279). The subjects were assessed with the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20); the Beck Depression Inventory; and the Depressive Experiences Questionnaire, which defines two types of depressive personality style (dependent and self-critical). The patients had high levels of alexithymic features and depressive symptoms. Comparisons of alexithymic features between patients and controls after adjustment for depression showed a significant difference between bulimic patients and controls for the TAS Difficulty Identifying Feelings factor, and between restricting anorexic patients and controls for the TAS Difficulty Describing Feelings factor. With regard to depressive personality styles, only scores on the self-critical dimension were significantly higher in bulimic patients than in restricting anorexic patients and controls. In the entire group of eating disorders, dependency was associated with the TAS Difficulty Identifying Feelings factor only in anorexic patients. Self-criticism, on the other hand, was associated with the TAS Difficulty Identifying Feelings factor in all subtypes of eating disorders, although the relationship was significantly stronger in restricting anorexic than in bulimic patients. The results of this study suggest that people with restricting anorexia and bulimia show specific clinical profiles associating alexithymic features and depressive dimensions.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / diagnosis
  • Affective Symptoms / epidemiology*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / diagnosis
  • Anorexia Nervosa / epidemiology*
  • Bulimia / diagnosis
  • Bulimia / epidemiology*
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Disorders / diagnosis
  • Personality Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Self Concept
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires