The relationship between alexithymia and emotional awareness: A meta-analytic review of the correlation between TAS-20 and LEAS

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Abstract

Background: Alexithymia and emotional awareness may be considered overlapping constructs and both have been shown to be related to psychological and emotional well-being. However, it is not clear how the constructs relate to each other empirically or if they may overlap more or less in different populations. The aim of this review was therefore to conduct a meta-analysis of correlations between the most commonly used measures of alexithymia (i.e., the self-report instrument Toronto Alexithymia Scale; TAS-20) and emotional awareness (i.e., the observer-rated instrument Level of Emotional Awareness Scale; LEAS) and to explore potential moderators of their relationship. Methods: Electronic databases were searched for studies published until the end of February 2018. Study samples were coded as medical conditions, psychiatric disorders and/or healthy controls and sample mean age and gender distribution were extracted. Correlations between the TAS-20 and the LEAS were subjected to a random effect of meta-analysis and moderators were explored in subgroup analyses and meta-regressions. Publication bias was considered. Results: 21 studies reporting on 28 independent samples on correlation analysis were included, encompassing a total of 2857 subjects (57% women). The aggregated correlation between TAS-20 and LEAS was r = −0.122 (95% CI [−0.180, −0.064]; Z =−4.092; p<0.001), indicating a significant, butweak, negative relationship between the measures. Heterogeneity was moderate, but we found no indication of significant differences between patients with medical conditions, psychiatric disorders or healthy controls, nor thatmean age or percentage of female subjectsmoderated the relationship. The overall estimate became somewhat weaker after adjusting for possible publication bias. Conclusions: Our results indicate that TAS-20 and LEAS measure different aspects of emotional functioning. The small overlap suggests that alexithymia and emotional awareness are distinct constructs of emotionalwell-being.Clinicians need to assess both aspects when considering treatment options for individual patients. Moreover, from the clinical standpoint, an easy reliable and valid way of measuring emotional awareness is still needed. More research should be focus on the differences between alexithymia and emotional awareness in specific conditions, but also how to integrate self-report instrument and observed based measures in a clinical situation.

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Maroti, D., Lilliengren, P., & Bileviciute-Ljungar, I. (2018, April 16). The relationship between alexithymia and emotional awareness: A meta-analytic review of the correlation between TAS-20 and LEAS. Frontiers in Psychology. Frontiers Media S.A. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00453

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