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Abstract

Background  Alexithymia is a personality trait characterized by difficulties in differentiating and describing feelings. Research indicates that alexithymia acts as a triggering factor for many medical and psychiatric disorders. The interest in alexithymia has increased considerably over the past decade. A state of the art review of recent research on alexithymia in medical and dermatological research is presented.

Methods  We reviewed most relevant publications on alexithymia from the field of clinical research, psychology, psychosomatics, and psycho-neuro-endocrinology. Systematic searches on alexithymia in dermatology were undertaken using the Cochrane Library and PUBMed.

Results  Interdisciplinary research, investigating alexithymia, is advancing rapidly into different fields of medicine. Alexithymia has been found to be associated with changes in sympathetic activity, immunity and brain activity. Some researchers link alexithymia with insecure parental attachment and adverse childhood experiences. Although research of alexithymia in dermatology is still scarce and reveals conflicting results, preliminary data show that alexithymia seems to be associated with alopecia areata, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, vitiligo or chronic urticaria.

Conclusion  Present research findings on alexithymia in the field of dermatology suggest important implications for the treatment of some specific dermatological disorders. Besides treating comorbid psychological problems such as anxiety and depression, dermatologists should also be aware of alexithymia and its possible association with an underlying dermatologic disease.