Lilly, Michelle M.
Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)
Department of Psychology
Alexithymia is a clinical term used to describe individuals who struggle to connect to their emotional experiences. Alexithymia is observed among individuals with a variety of mental health problems (Taylor, 2000; Taylor, Bagby, & Parker, 1997), and may characterize more severe clinical presentations (e.g., Frewen, Dozois, Neufeld, & Lanius, 2008). In addition, alexithymia seems to be related to adverse treatment outcomes (Kosten, Krystal, Giller, Frank, & Dan, 1992; Ogrodniczuk, Piper, & Joyce, 2011). This study adds to the current literature by examining the effect of alexithymia and emotion regulation (i.e., emotion suppression; emotion acceptance) on variables associated with trauma memory (i.e., narrativity, cohesiveness, connectivity, and use of emotion words). Pre-screening was used to identify individuals who had a history of trauma exposure. The study randomly assigned participants to an emotion regulation condition (i.e., emotion suppression, emotion acceptance), and asked participants to write a narrative of their trauma memory while using the emotion regulation strategy assigned to them. In this way, this study examined the impact of alexithymia and emotion regulation on aspects of the written trauma memory. Two significant results emerged from the data collected in this study. First, alexithymia was significantly associated with cohesiveness, such that greater alexithymia was associated with less cohesive trauma narratives. Second, emotion suppression significantly moderated the relationship between alexithymia and narrativity. For individuals
with higher alexithymia, emotion suppression negatively impacted the narrativity of their written trauma accounts. All other hypothesized effects were nonsignificant. Interpretation of the nonsignificant findings are explored using the framework provided by Cronbach and Meehl (1955).
Milliken, Jennifer, "Trauma Memory: The Role of Alexithymia and Emotion Regulation" (2019). Graduate Research Theses & Dissertations. 7451.
Northern Illinois University
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