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Bachelor of Arts
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Alexithymia is defined as an inability to identify or experience emotions, and has been connected to both major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Both MDD and GAD are associated with a tendency to select maladaptive emotion regulation (ER) techniques. The present studies explored the relationship between alexithymia and subclinical depression/anxiety by proposing that alexithymia is a mediator of the relationship between depressive/anxious symptoms and ER difficulty. Study 1 examined this relationship in the context of implicit, or automatic, ER, as assessed by an emotional conflict task. While the task failed to index implicit ER ability, this study fostered an understanding of the role of response windows in implicit ER paradigms. Study 2 explored this relationship in the context of explicit, or effortful, ER, as assessed by heart rate variability (HRV) and subjectively reported affect associated with an anxiety-inducing task prior to which participants were instructed to implement reappraisal. This study did not find alexithymia to be a mediator of the relationship between symptoms of depression/anxiety and ER, suggesting that alexithymia does not negatively impact individuals’ ability to engage in instructed reappraisal. However, based on the general failure of reappraisal on a physiological level, this study also suggested that the relative success of reappraisal is contextually determined. Finally, this study found depression and anxiety to be associated with heightened subjective distress, and pointed to a decoupling between physiological and subjective emotional experience in subclinical depression and anxiety.
Koller, William N., "Subclinical Depression, Anxiety, and Alexithymia: Implications for Implicit and Explicit Emotion Regulation" (2017). Honors Theses. 199.
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