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Keywords:

  • alexithymia;
  • facial emotion recognition;
  • eating disorders

Abstract

Objective

Patients with anorexia or bulimia nervosa are reported to show high levels of alexithymia and to have difficulties recognizing facially displayed emotions. The current study tested whether it could be that facial emotion recognition is a basic skill that is independent from alexithymia.

Method

We assessed emotion recognition skills and alexithymia in a group of 79 female inpatients with eating disorders and compared them with a group of 78 healthy female controls. Instruments used were the Toronto Alexithymia Scale, the Facially Expressed Emotion Labeling (FEEL) test, and the revised Symptom Check List (SCL-90-R).

Results

There were no significant differences between patients and controls in their emotion recognition scores, but patients with eating disorders displayed significantly more alexithymia and psychopathology. Emotion recognition in patients was not related to alexithymia, psychopathology, or clinical symptoms.

Conclusion

We suggest that the reported alexithymia of patients with eating disorders is complex and independent from basic facial emotion recognition. © 2006 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 2006