Alexithymia is a psychological construct referring to difficulties in recognizing, describing, and distinguishing one’s emotions, an impoverished imaginative life, and an externally oriented style of thinking.
Alexithymia is associated with several mental health problems (e.g., affective disorders, eating disorders, substance use disorders) as well as with physical health issues (e.g., chronic pain, functional gastrointestinal ailments), and is considered an important vulnerability factor for developing these disorders.
Over the past 20 years, there has been a remarkable increase of research on alexithymia using methods of cognitive psychology. Experimental research has examined the specific types of processes and the intensity of deficits in the processing and regulation of emotions associated with alexithymia.
This line of research has produced major contributions to our current understanding of the complex (and possibly causal) links between biological mechanisms underlying the central facets of alexithymia and later negative mental and physical health outcomes.
Current findings have highlighted that people scoring higher on alexithymia (HA) evidence deficits only when the task difficulty is increased, such as under short time presentations or degraded quality of images (e.g., Ihme et al., 2014a, 2014b ; Kätsyri et al., 2008 ; Prkachin et al., 2009). Deficits might also be dependent on the type of emotional material.
If we consider the ability to detect, identify, and recognize emotions in oneself and others, deficits for HA mainly occurred for negative states such as anger, sadness, or fear (Luminet & Zamariola, 2018).
The central aim of this special issue is to advance scientific understanding of how alexithymia alters emotion processing by presenting cutting-edge studies that employ novel approaches and that have the potential to overcome the limits of previous research at theoretical as well as methodological levels.
The focus of the special issue will be twofold.
First, what can we learn about the cognition-emotion interface from experimental research on alexithymia?
Second, how do principles of the cognition-emotion interface inform the scientific understanding of the alexithymia construct?
The special issue will emphasize new development in alexithymia research such as the growing number of studies that investigate the implicit processing of cognitive and emotional information.
These studies highlight that alexithymia is not only related to conscious and deliberate processing, but that the deficit already occurs at very early, automatic stages of processing.
Here again, we advocate for more integrative studies that consider simultaneously implicit and explicit processes as this distinction will have a determining impact of therapeutic interventions.
This special issue will also show the contribution of different disciplines in order to understand the multifactorial origins and consequences of alexithymia.
There are so far not many attempts to consider simultaneously biological, cultural, and psychological perspectives or to integrate emotional, cognitive, and behavioral dimensions within the same study.
Current models remain often too simple, favoring explanations that include direct links between a restricted number of variables, while a large number of mediators and moderators need to be considered in order to understand the numerous indirect pathways that contribute to the relationship between alexithymia and mental and somatic illness.
Papers in this special issue are clearly engaged in testing such indirect paths, aiming to do justice to the multifactorial nature of this complex construct.
Although alexithymia is regarded as a personality construct involving only dysfunctional outcomes, some data that will be presented in this special issue show the importance to dedicate more attention to contexts in which high alexithymia is related to functionally beneficial responses, such as better facilities to disengage from threatening stimuli (Vermeulen, Luminet, & Corneille, 2006).
The fact that people with high alexithymia levels direct less attention to emotional information may protect them from the affective consequences of unpleasant stimuli.
An indirect advantage of alexithymia is that people scoring high on this construct pay less attention to external stimuli when executing another unrelated task (Vermeulen, Toussaint, & Luminet, 2010).
Deadline for submission: November 30th 2018
A typical full article for this journal should be no more than 8000 words; this limit does not include tables, figure captions, author notes/endnotes.
This limit includes the main text, abstract, footnotes and references.
In case of single study, we ask authors to sumit a brief article that should be no more than 4000 words; this limit does not include tables, author notes/endnotes and figure captions; this limit includes the main text, abstract, footnotes and references.
Full instructions for authors can be found here
- Editor: Olivier Luminet, Université catholique de Louvain and Fund for Scientific Research (FRS-FNRS), Belgium
- Editor: Kristy A. Nielson, Marquette University, US
- Editor: Nathan Ridout, Aston University, UK