Home > Investigating defensive functioning and alexithymia in substance use disorder patients.

Taurino, Alessandro and Antonucci, Linda A and Taurisano, Paolo and Laera, Domenico (2021) Investigating defensive functioning and alexithymia in substance use disorder patients. BMC Psychiatry, 21, (337), doi: 10.1186/s12888-021-03340-w.

External website: https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/1...

BACKGROUND: Substance Use Disorder (SUD) causes a great deal of personal suffering for patients. Recent evidence highlights how defenses and emotion regulation may play a crucial part in the onset and development of this disorder. The aim of this study was to investigate potential differences in the defensive functioning between SUD patients and non-clinical controls. Secondly, we aimed at investigating the relationships between alexithymia and maladaptive/assimilation defenses.

METHODS: The authors assessed defensive functioning (Response Evaluation Measure-71, REM-71), personality (MMPI-II), and alexithymia (TAS-20) of 171 SUD patients (17% female; mean age = 36.5), compared to 155 controls. Authors performed a series of ANOVAs to investigate the defensive array in SUD patients compared to that of non-clinical controls.

RESULTS: SUD patients presented a more maladaptive/assimilation (Factor 1) defensive array (p < .001). Among SUD sub-groups, Alcohol Use Disorder patients showed more disfuncional defenses. Factor 1 defenses were related to a worse psychological functioning. In addition, alexyhimia (particularly DIF) was strongly related to Factor 1 defenses, expecially Projection (38% of variance explained, β = .270, p < .001).

CONCLUSION: The REM-71 and the TAS-20 might be useful screening instruments among SUD patients.

[Note: alexithymia refers to a multidimensional personality construct, defined by a set of four characteristics: 1) difficulty in identifying feelings and in distinguishing feelings from bodily sensations of emotional arousal, 2) difficulty in describing and in communicating feelings to others, 3) lack of fantasy and imagination, and 4) an externally oriented style of thinking]

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