On the Relationship Between Interoceptive Awareness and Alexithymia: Is Interoceptive Awareness Related to Emotional Awareness?


  • We would like to thank Prof. M. Pasupathi, Prof. B. Bermond, and an unknown reviewer for their helpful suggestions and comments on our article. We also would like to thank Dr. Rainer Scheuchenpflug for his helpful statistical advice and Miss Nicole Oetama for proofreading of the manuscript.

concerning this article should be addressed to Beate M. Herbert, Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Tuebingen, Eberhard-Karls-University Tuebingen, Frondsbergstr. 23, 72076 Tuebingen, Germany. Email: beate.herbert@gmx.de.


ABSTRACT Interoceptive awareness (IA) is associated with emotional experience, the processing of emotional stimuli, and activation of brain structures that monitor the internal visceral and emotional state of the organism. Alexithymia is characterized by difficulties in identifying and describing one's emotions and externally oriented thinking (EOT) and reflects impairments in emotional awareness and the regulation of emotions. This study examined the relationship between alexithymia and IA in a healthy population of N=155 persons. A well-validated heartbeat perception task to measure interoceptive awareness, the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) and a depression questionnaire (BDI-2) were administered to 88 women and 67 men. IA was inversely associated with all features of alexithymia in the whole sample. When considering sex differences, IA turned out to be a relevant negative predictor for the EOT subscale only in men. This large sample investigation in a nonclinical population indicates that IA represents a relevant negative predictor for alexithymia.