Facial emotion recognition and alexithymia in adults with somatoform disorders

Francisco Pedrosa Gil, Nathan Ridout, Henrik Kessler, Michaela Neuffer, Claudia Schoechlin, Harald C Traue, Marius Nickel
Depression and Anxiety 2009, 26 (1): E26-33

OBJECTIVE: The primary aim of this study was to investigate facial emotion recognition in patients with somatoform disorders (SFD). Also of interest was the extent to which concurrent alexithymia contributed to any changes in emotion recognition accuracy.

METHODS: Twenty patients with SFD and twenty healthy, age, sex and education matched, controls were assessed with the Facially Expressed Emotion Labelling Test of facial emotion recognition and the 26-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-26).

RESULTS: Patients with SFD exhibited elevated alexithymia symptoms relative to healthy controls. Patients with SFD also recognized significantly fewer emotional expressions than did the healthy controls. However, the group difference in emotion recognition accuracy became nonsignificant once the influence of alexithymia was controlled for statistically.

CONCLUSIONS: This suggests that the deficit in facial emotion recognition observed in the patients with SFD was most likely a consequence of concurrent alexithymia. Impaired facial emotion recognition observed in the patients with SFD could plausibly have a negative influence on these individuals' social functioning.

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