Alexithymia in systemic lupus erythematosus patients

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Sep:1173:227-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04640.x.


This study aimed to determine the prevalence of alexithymic characteristics in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), comparing them with a population of healthy subjects. Fifty-three SLE patients [American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria] and 31 healthy volunteer subjects were administered validated scales for alexithymia (Toronto alexythimia scale-20), psychopathology (brief symptom inventory; hospital anxiety and depression scale), personality dimensions (NEO five-factor inventory), and quality of life (short form-36 health survey). The SLE patient's clinical and laboratory evaluations were performed by computerized indicators of activity (SLE disease activity index), of accumulated damage (Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics/American College of Rheumatology damage index), length of disease, and therapy. A high prevalence of alexithymia was found in SLE patients. Alexithymia was associated with psychopathology, personality, and quality of life dimensions. Clinical variables and therapy were not correlated significantly with alexithymia, psychopathology, or quality of life dimensions. Multiple regression analysis showed that openness and depression were the two predictors for alexithymia in SLE patients. The present findings showed that alexithymia may play an important role in SLE patients. The difficulty in the management of emotions may lead to psychological distress and instability affecting the patient's quality of life, a relevant finding for the psychological, psychiatric, and clinical intervention and approach.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / epidemiology
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology*
  • Aged
  • Comorbidity
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / epidemiology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / psychology*
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Middle Aged
  • Portugal / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Social Class
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult