The impact of alexithymia on desire for alcohol during a social stress test

Knapton, Cindy and Bruce, Gillian and Williams, Lynn (2018) The impact of alexithymia on desire for alcohol during a social stress test. Substance Use and Misuse, 53 (4). pp. 662-667. ISSN 1082-6084 (

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Background: Alexithymia is a personality construct comprising difficulty in identifying and describing emotions and externally oriented thinking. Its role in heavy and problematic alcohol consumption is well documented, together with its relationship with social stress. However, little research has examined whether social stress has any effect on desire for alcohol among alexithymic individuals. Objectives: In this experimental study, we explored the relationship between alexithymia and desire for alcohol in response to an experimental social stressor. Methods: One hundred and thirty eight social drinkers completed the Toronto Alexithymia Scale, self-report measures of alcohol consumption and a stress-inducing task. Desire for alcohol was measured at three time points: baseline, stressor and recovery. Results: Correlation analysis demonstrated that alexithymia was associated with significantly higher rates of alcohol consumption and higher levels of desire for alcohol. Mixed measures ANOVA demonstrated a significant main effect of alexithymia and a significant group by time effect of alexithymia on desire for alcohol. Conclusions/Importance: The findings demonstrate increased desire for alcohol before, during and after a social stressor among alexithymic participants. These findings offer an insight into the relationship between alexithymia, social stress and alcohol consumption.