ALEXITHYMIA, BURDEN AND EMOTIONAL STATE IN ALS’ CAREGIVERS

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Abstract

Introduction: Living with a progressively disease such as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) has a strong impact on the people affected and on their relatives, who have to tackle the demanding duties of caring for and assisting them (Tramonti et al., 2014). Although an extensive literature documents the levels of distress among caregivers of patients with progressive illness, less attention has been directed to determinants of caregiver mood and emotional regulation (Rabkin et al., 2009). In particular, there are not studies that assess the role of alexithymia in ALS. We evaluated the relationship between alexithymia and burden, and psychopatological symptoms in ALS’caregivers.Methods: 17 ALS’caregivers were tested with the following instruments: Toronto Alexithymia Scale-20 (TAS20); Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS); Caregiver Burden Inventory (CBI).Results: 9 (53%) caregivers suffered from alexithymia (M=58; SD=6.2), while 8 individuals (47%) were not alexithymic (M=41.25; SD=8.31). We showed a positive correlation between total alexithymia score (TAS20-Tot) and depression (HADS-D; ρ= 0.575, p<0.01) and emotional burden (CBI-E; ρ=0.581, p<0.01). We found positive associations between TAS20 Difficulty Identifying Feelings subscale (TAS20-DIF) and anxiety (HADS-A; ρ=0.505, p<0.05), and HADS-D (ρ=0.679, p<0.05), and CBI-E (ρ=0.672, p<0.01). TAS20 Difficulty Describing Feelings subscale (TAS20-DDF) correlated with HADS-D (ρ=0.508, p<0.05) and CBI-E (ρ=0.747, p<0.01). TAS20 Externally-Oriented Thinking subscale (TAS20-EOT) did not show any significant correlation.Conclusions: Our results in ALS’ caregivers confirm previous evidence of a relationship between alexithymia and depression symptoms in other severe disabling diseases. Difficulty in identifying and describing own and others feelings could increase caregivers’emotional negative state and burden. It could lead to ineffective emotional responding and it could be a risk factor for care-related stress.
Original languageItalian
Number of pages150
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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