|Authors||Fournier, Alicia, Luminet, Olivier, Dambrun, Michael, Dutheil, Frédéric, Pellissier, Sonia and Mondillon, Laurie|
Recent studies have shown that people with high alexithymia scores have decreased interoceptive abilities, which can be associated with psychological and physical disorders. Early assessments of the alexithymia trait included the evaluation of these abilities through the dimension measuring the difficulty in identifying and distinguishing between feelings and bodily sensations (the 26-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale; TAS-26). The revised version of the TAS, the TAS-20, contains a three-factor solution that does not involve a dimension assessing interoceptive abilities. However, the three items allowing the evaluation of these abilities are still present in the TAS-20. In this context, we hypothesized that the 3 items which assess interoceptive abilities in the TAS-20 should constitute an independent factor. In addition to exploring the internal structure of the TAS-20, we examined its external validity by assessing the relationships between the new factors and self-reported measures of personality trait and psychological and physical health.
Two online studies (N = 253 and N = 287) were performed. The participants completed the TAS-20 and a set of psychological questionnaires (e.g., anxiety, depression) and health questions (e.g., “Do you suffer from a somatic disorder?”). The structure of the TAS-20 was examined using exploratory factor analysis (EFA), followed by an investigation of the relationships between the resulting new factors and other psychological and health data using regressions. In both studies, EFA revealed a new structure of the questionnaire consisting of four dimensions: (1) difficulty in the awareness of feelings, (2) externally oriented thinking, (3) difficulty in interoceptive abilities, and (4) poor affective sharing. The first factor was positively associated with all self-reported psychological and personality trait measures while the third factor was associated more with somatic disorders and medication intake.
Our results suggest the presence of a new latent factor in the assessment of alexithymia that reflects interoceptive abilities specifically related to health and personality trait outcomes. In accordance with the results and the literature, it seems important to include an assessment of interoceptive abilities when considering the evaluation of alexithymia. The next step would be to develop a valid measure of these abilities.