ANS52(1)40-44 - ACTIVITAS NERVOSA SUPERIOR Activitas...

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Activitas Nervosa Superior 2010; 52 :1,40-44 40 A LEXITHYMIA AND IMMUNE DYSREGULATION : A CRITICAL REVIEW Tomas Uher* Department of Neurology, Faculty Hospital Bulovka, Prague, Czech Republic Received January 5, 2010; accepted February 14, 2010 Abstract Alexithymia presents a deficit in identifying and expressing emotions, paucity of fantasies, and an externally oriented cognitive style. Numerous recent studies have documented that alexithymia is significantly related to dysregulation of immune functions. These findings implicate that stressors related to alexithymia could underlie the process of immune dysregulation that likely presents a significant risk factor in pathogenesis of several psychosomatic illnesses. In this ar- ticle various findings on immune dysregulation in alexithymia are reviewed and discussed. Key words: Alexithymia; Psychosomatic illnesses; Immune dysregulation INTRODUCTION Recent evidence indicates that dysregulation of an emo- tional experience and its expression have negative effect on health of the individual (Taylor, 1987; Kiecolt- Glaser et al., 2002; Guilbaud et al., 2003). Already Al- exander (1943, 1950) has proposed that some specific changes of mental functions and typical alterations in cognitive and affective functioning may cause psycho- somatic diseases. Alexander suggested that not only onset, but also a course of many somatic illnesses is influenced by repression of certain conflicting ideas and related emotional disturbances. Further research has shown that processes related to psychosomatic symp- toms may present a final result of stress-induced inter- nal psychic arousal (Nemiah, 2000). It was also pro- posed that a deficit in capacity of symbolization of emo- tions, verbal behavior, fantasies, and dreams can cause spectrum of symptoms, including physiological deficits that may result to various illnesses, dispositions to im- pulsive behavior, discomfort or avoidance of social rela- tionships and decreased capacity for self-care and self- regulation (Nemiah & Sifneos, 1970). An important explanation of these psychosomatic dis- orders presents the concept of alexithymia proposed by Sifneos in 1972, that is shortly described as: “no words for feelings”. Alexithymia is frequently characterized by a deficit or developmental arrest of capacity of sym- bolic representation of emotions and it is hypothesized that it may present a basic dysfunction in psychosomatic patients (Nemiah & Sifneos, 1970; Lane et al., 1997). For example Bermond (1997) proposed that alexithymia could be defined as an inability of complete emotional experience, which means that the person is not able to experience various feelings, differentiate between them, verbalize, reflect and analyze emotional experiences. As a consequence of this disturbed mental experience, alex- ithymia frequently leads to disconnected response be- tween the emotional state and physiological arousal and increases risk of stress-related illness (Lumley et al., 1996; Friedlander et al., 1997; de Timary et al., 2008).
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This note was uploaded on 03/08/2011 for the course CLINICAL P 2010 taught by Professor Actnervsuper during the Spring '11 term at The Chicago School of Prof. Psychology.

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ANS52(1)40-44 - ACTIVITAS NERVOSA SUPERIOR Activitas...

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