Alexithymia in patients with substance use disorders: State or trait?

Hein A. de Haan, Jacobus Adrianus Maria van der Palen, Toon G.M. Wijdeveld, Jan K. Buitelaar, Cor A.J. de Jong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Previous research on substance use disorders (SUD) has yielded conflicting results concerning whether alexithymia is a state or trait, raising the question of how alexithymia should be addressed in the treatment of SUD-patients. The absolute and relative stabilities of alexithymia were assessed using the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) and its subscales. In total, 101 patients with SUD were assessed twice during a 3-week inpatient detoxification period while controlling for withdrawal symptoms and personality disorder traits. The relative stability of the total TAS-20 and subscales was moderate to high but showed remarkable differences between baseline low, moderate, and high alexithymic patients. A small reduction in the mean levels of the total TAS-20 scores and those of one subscale revealed the absence of absolute stability. The levels of alexithymia were unrelated to changes in withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety- and depression-like symptoms. The differences between low, moderate, and high alexithymic patients in terms of the change in alexithymia scores between baseline and follow-up indicated a strong regression to the mean. The findings suggest that alexithymia in SUD patients as measured using the TAS-20 is both a state and trait phenomenon and does not appear to be related to changes in anxiety- and depression-like symptoms
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-145
JournalPsychiatry research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • IR-91851
  • METIS-305124


Dive into the research topics of 'Alexithymia in patients with substance use disorders: State or trait?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this