On the nexus of chronic pain, posttraumatic stress, and alexithymia

Individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often exhibit deficits in emotional experience and expression, which suggests that certain individuals with PTSD may be alexithymic. In this study, in a sample of 105 individuals with PTSD, clinical correlates of alexithymia included re-experiencing, hyper arousal, numbing, dissociative symptoms, and retrospectively reported experiences of childhood emotional neglect. In a subsample of 26 individuals with PTSD related to a motor vehicle accident, functional neural responses to trauma-script imagery were associated with severity of alexithymia, including increased right posterior-insula and ventral posterior-cingulate activation and decreased bilateral ventral anterior-cingulate, ventromedial prefrontal, anterior-insula, and right inferior frontal cortex activation. Clinical and theoretical implications and future research directions are discussed.

Author(s): Nakieta Lankster

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