Elżbieta Zdankiewicz-Ścigała, Dawid Konrad Ścigała, Jerzy Trzebiński

Alexithymia in the Narratization of Romantic Relationships: The Mediating Role of Fear of Intimacy

  • General Medicine

Purpose: The purpose of the study was to verify the hypothesis concerning the relationship between alexithymia and selected indicators used to describe emotional events, specifically romantic relationships. Alexithymia, due to significant distortions in cognitive processing of emotional content, is demonstrated by poor recognition of emotions in oneself and others and, as a result, by deficits in empathy, avoidance of social relationships, and deficits in the ability to mentalize. Differences in narrations were tested by alexithymia levels (high vs. low) and the relation between specific narration features and individual alexithymia factors, i.e., difficulties in identifying emotions, difficulties in verbalising emotions, and externally oriented thinking. Method: A total of 356 people who had been in a romantic relationship for at least six months participated in the study. The TAS-20 was applied to measure alexithymia, and the FIS questionnaire was used to investigate anxiety in close relationships. Participants were asked to freely describe the romantic relationship they were in at that moment. The Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWCLIWC2015 v1.6—unlimited duration academic licence) software was used for content analysis. The study was conducted online. Results: On the basis of the analyses conducted, high levels of alexithymia were found to be significantly associated with a lower total number of words used in narrative, a lower number relating to positive emotions, a lower number relating to causation and insight, and a higher number relating to negative emotions. Various results were obtained for individual dimensions of alexithymia in relation to the LIWC categories and the mediating role of fear of intimacy. For the difficulty identifying feelings (DIF), a significant mediating effect was observed only for words associated with negative emotions, whereas for the difficulty describing feelings (DDF), significant mediating effects were found for words relating to negative emotions and causality. In the case of externally oriented thinking (EOT), significant mediating effects were obtained for all analysed categories from LIWC.

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