Journal of Trauma & Treatment

ISSN: 2167-1222

Open Access

From Trauma Exposure to Depression: An Evaluation of Alexithymia Assessed via Auditory-Affective Perception and Interpersonal Problems as Potential Mediators


Ciaran Michael Considine and Sandra Paivio

Objectives: Alexithymia involves difficulty identifying and describing emotions and has been linked to a variety of psychological problems, particularly exposure to trauma, interpersonal difficulties, and depression. Currently, alexithymia is most commonly assessed through self- report questionnaires. A neuropsychological test may be a more valid assessment of alexithymia because it uses a performance-based design and focuses on the underlying cognitive process in question: affective-processing. This impaired processing may be useful in testing an explanatory model for the relationship between trauma exposure and the subsequent development of alexithymia, interpersonal problems, and depression.
Participants and methods: Fifty-three undergraduate students pre-screened for trauma exposure, were given questionnaires measuring alexithymia, interpersonal problems, and depression, and then administered a neuropsychological test of Auditory-Affective Perception (AAP). Correlational analyses compared the neuropsychological measure with the alexithymia questionnaire. A hierarchical regression tested a meditational model.
Results: Performance on the neuropsychological measure of AAP did not significantly correlate with the alexithymia questionnaire (p>0.05). Alexithymia was found to partially mediate between trauma exposure and depression (p=0.03). The over-all model was significant, F(2.50)=25.17, p<0.001, adjusted-R2=0.48.
Conclusions: Regression analyses supported self-reported alexithymia as a partial mediator of the relationship between trauma exposure and depression, suggesting that depressive symptoms developed following trauma exposure are partially related to the development of alexithymic symptoms. AAP performance was not significantly correlated with the measure of alexithymia suggesting self-reported alexithymic symptoms are independent of the ability to recognize auditorially-presented emotions; possible explanations and theoretical implications are discussed.


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