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Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics
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Background: The purpose of the present study was to clarify the relationship between the recognition of emotion and physiological response to emotion (i.e. arousal) in alexithymia. Methods: This study investigated differences in physiological arousal state, as measured by continuous heart rate, electrodermal activity (EDA) and self-reported emotional intensity before and after exposure to an emotionally arousing or neutral videotape among 41 high- or low-alexithymic young adult participants. Results: Across subjects, emotionally negative stimuli produced increased physiological arousal. However, high-alexithymic participants exposed to the arousing videotape did not report increased subjective emotional intensity, as did low-alexithymic participants. In addition, the baseline EDA of high-alexithymic participants was significantly higher than that of the low-alexithymic participants. Conclusions: Results support the prediction that alexithymia leads to a decoupling between subjective and physiological arousal when exposed to emotionally negative stimuli. This decoupling may increase alexithymic individuals’ risks for stress-related illness.