Is alexithymia a predictor of college student alcohol abuse?

Diane Arms, University of Texas at El Paso


Alexithymia, as defined by Sifneos (1973), literally means “no words for emotions.” It is characterized by the following three domains: (1) the incapacity to identify feelings, (2) inability to describe feelings, and (3) the tendency to think in externally oriented ways (Salminen, Saarijarvi, & Aarela, 1995; Sifneos, 2000). Although alexithymia is not a diagnosable disorder, it has been shown to be related to a wide variety of other constructs (e.g. alcohol use, depression and parenting styles). This study examined the interrelationships between alexithymia and student alcohol use, while controlling for sex, perceived parental alcohol use, perceived parenting styles and student depression. The fit of a hypothesized path model which described the relationships among the variables in the model indicated adequate model fit. Contrary to prior research, sex was not predictive of depression, and sex did not predict two of the three domains of alexithymia. Student Depression was predictive of the all three subscales of alexithymia. Depression, student sex, mother’s alcohol use, father’s permissive parenting style and the difficulty describing feelings scale of alexithymia were all predictive of student alcohol use. Parenting styles had indirect effects on student alcohol use. Strengths and limitations of this study are addressed and implications, along with future directions, of these findings are discussed.^

Subject Area

Psychology, Clinical|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Arms, Diane, "Is alexithymia a predictor of college student alcohol abuse?" (2009). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1473851.