Difficulty in labeling and communicating emotions (commonly known as alexithymia) may play a role in how women and men respond to a depressed mood. In the current study, we hypothesized that alexithymia would be associated with a lower probability of seeking support from close others or health care professionals. We also tested the hypothesis that gender differences in response to depressive symptoms could be accounted for by alexithymia. One hundred and seventy-two employees of a small urban university completed the Toronto Alexithymia Scale-20, the Beck Depression Inventory, and a Responses to Depression Analogue Questionnaire. This sample was 67% women, 90% Caucasian, and was highly educated overall. Difficulties in communicating emotion were associated with a lower self-reported probability of seeking social support from friends or family, or thinking about the reasons for problems. No relationship was found between alexithymia and the probability of seeking help from a professional. Partial support was found for alexithymia as a mediator of gender differences in response to depressive symptoms. Overall, the results are consistent with the idea that the abilities to recognize, label, and communicate affective experiences are related to the ways in which people cope with depression, and that these relationships differ according to gender.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 16, 2004
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