Alexithymia and somatization a rorschach study of four psychosomatic groups

Marvin W. Acklin, Gene Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


The construct of alexithymia has been postulated as a predisposing factor in psychosomatic illness. The alexithymia construct has achieved wide currency in psychosomatic research and theorizing despite its doubtful psychometric foundations. Also, the question of between-group variability in alexithymia has not been addressed. In this study we proposed and tested a Rorschach measure of alexithymia on four groups of psychosomatic patients (back pain, gastrointestinal, dermatology, migraine headache). It was hypothesized that psychosomatic groups would be more alexithymic than nonpatients. To examine the question of between-group variability in alexithymia, it was hypothesized that back pain patients would be more alexithymic than other psychosomatic groups. Both hypotheses were supported. Additionally, exploratory comparisons between psychosomatic groups revealed a number of differences between the groups in basic personality processes. The findings show promise for the use of the Rorschach test as an alexithymia measure. Based on the current study, heterogeneous grouping of psychosomatic patients in research designs and treatment programs appear to be a highly questionable procedure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-350
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Nervous and Mental Disease
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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