Clinical and neural correlates of alexithymia in posttraumatic stress disorder

J Abnorm Psychol. 2008 Feb;117(1):171-81. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.117.1.171.


Individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often exhibit deficits in emotional experience and expression, which suggests that certain individuals with PTSD may be alexithymic. In this study, in a sample of 105 individuals with PTSD, clinical correlates of alexithymia included reexperiencing, hyperarousal, numbing, dissociative symptoms, and retrospectively reported experiences of childhood emotional neglect. In a subsample of 26 individuals with PTSD related to a motor vehicle accident, functional neural responses to trauma-script imagery were associated with severity of alexithymia, including increased right posterior-insula and ventral posterior-cingulate activation and decreased bilateral ventral anterior-cingulate, ventromedial prefrontal, anterior-insula, and right inferior frontal cortex activation. Clinical and theoretical implications and future research directions are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / diagnosis
  • Affective Symptoms / epidemiology*
  • Affective Symptoms / physiopathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology*