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Working Group Genetics


Working group Brain Imaging

Working group „Alexithymia“

Telemedical Care Research Group

Working group: obesity with psychiatric disorders

Section Public Mental Health and Stigma Research



Subjects with alexithymia (”no words for emotions”) have difficulties identifying subjective feelings and distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations that accompany states of emotional arousal. Additionally they have an externally oriented style of thinking and an impoverished fantasy life. They often avoid social situations, seem cold, show a lack of intimacy and warmth and are insecurely attached to others. Research on the alexithymia construct has advanced rapidly over the past decade due to the development of the self-report 20-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) that provided investigators a reliable and valid assessment tool. The high stability of the TAS-20 over a 5-year period underscores the trait characteristic of alexithymia. In a general population sample >10 % and in a patient sample with mental and psychosomatic disorders >25 % scored in the high range of the TAS-20 (>60).

Alexithymia is an important construct impacting on psychotherapy and interactional skills and behavior. Moreover, alexithymia seems to have a robust biological basis. In our working group we investigate the effects of alexithymia on psychotherapy and analyze biological and genetic factors of alexithymia.



Selected References:

  • HJ Grabe, K Wittfeld, K Hegenscheid, N Hosten, M Lotze, D Janowitz, H Völzke, U John, S Barnow, HJ Freyberger. Alexithymia and brain gray matter volumes in a general population sample. Human Brain Mapping 12/2014; 35(12).
  • Terock J, Janowitz D, Spitzer C, Miertsch M, Freyberger HJ, Grabe HJ. Alexithymia and self-directedness as predictors of psychopathology and psychotherapeutic treatment outcome. Compr Psychiatry. 2015 Oct;62:34-41.
  • Grabe HJ und Rufer M (Hrsg.) (2009). Alexithymie – eine Störung der Affektregulation. Konzepte, Klinik und Therapie. Verlag Hans Huber, Hogrefe AG, Bern. ISBN 978-3-7945-2454-9. 240 Seiten.
  • Grabe HJ, Rufer M, Bagby RM, Taylor GJ, Parker JDA (2014). Strukturiertes Toronto Alexithymie Interview (TSIA). Deutschsprachige Adaptation des Toronto Structured Interview for Alexithymie (TSIA) von RM Bagby, GJ Taylor und JDA Parker. Bern Verlag Hans Huber


  • Michael Bagby / Graeme Taylor, CAMH; University of Toronto
  • Michael Rufer, Dept. of Psychiatry, University of Zürich
  • Thomas Suslow, Dept. of Psychosomatic Medicine, University of Leipzig



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